The European Space Agency (ESA) has gotten to the bottom of the most pertinent question we hadn’t been asking. Are all astronauts floating around in dirty underoos?
The ESA’s video team polled people in various European cities to find out what the common Earthling thinks is going on under those spacesuits. Some apparently think astronauts get paper underwear, while others think a lack of gravity means the grime just floats away in what must be a kind of Pig-Pen-esque cloud. If only!
The answer is, astronauts don’t do laundry at all. Though NASA commissioned a washing machine for the International Space Station in 2011, apparently, astronauts’ dreams of freshly laundered linens have yet to materialize. Water is a precious commodity on the ISS, and no one wants to waste precious recycled urine on dirty socks.
Fresh clothes are delivered from Earth like any other supplies. But since that doesn’t happen that often (and launching anything into space is waaay expensive), astronauts usually have to wear their clothes–and underwear–for much longer than they would on Earth. Since astronauts start to lose their sense of smell in space, it’s probably not that bad. Astronaut Don Pettit once wrote that he changed his underwear once every three or four days on the ISS–and that he had been wearing the same pair of shorts for months.
And here’s a perk: When you’re an astronaut, your dirty laundry is literally just incinerated. Waste and dirty linens from the Space Station burn up on re-entry to the Earth’s atmosphere! Ah, what a life.