European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Matthias Maurer has shared a video showing how he prepares for a night’s sleep aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
As you might expect, the routine is much like it is on Earth — except for all of the floating around and other challenges caused by the microgravity conditions.
Maurer has been on board the space station for nearly six months so has had plenty of time to perfect his nighttime routine.
The German’s slumber sessions take place in CASA (Crew Alternate Sleep Accommodation), located in the European Columbus science laboratory module.
“But before he floats into his sleeping bag in there for the night, Matthias takes a little detour to one of the three ‘bathrooms’ currently on board the space station,” ESA says in comments accompanying the video. “Separated from the work areas and installed in different modules of the U.S. Orbital Segment and Russian segments of the station to allow them some privacy, the astronauts on board share these bathrooms to wash up, take a ‘shower’ in space, and brush their teeth.”
Maurer says that he’s able to use a much smaller amount of toothpaste in space than on Earth, as it foams much more easily than it does on the ground. Once he’s finished brushing his teeth, he spits the foam into a towel.
“Showering,” as you can see in the video, involves little more than a damp cloth, with the lack of gravity making it impossible to enjoy a more familiar kind of washing experience.
Viewers might be surprised to see so many liquid droplets floating off as Maurer pours the water onto the cloth and starts washing his face. Asked in a Q&A piece on his blog about if the droplets could damage onboard electronics, Maurer assures us that it’s safe.
“The washing areas that we have are in separate locations where we also have shower curtains and no critical electronics,” the astronaut explains.
“In addition, all electronic outlets need to have caps on them. You would never leave an electronic outlet open, with all the pins open, so that fluid or dust can get into it. But it’s true, some computer systems have fans and areas where liquid could be pulled in, but I think the selection of all the hardware was made in a way to also protect from that. So, we should take care that we don’t spray liquid around and if there are droplets around, we should wipe them off. But the environment here is quite resilient and robust and can handle some small droplets.”
Maurer then floats off to his sleeping pod in the Columbus module, finding time to check his laptop for any important messages before turning in. The pod is big enough for one person, with the astronaut usually climbing inside a sleeping bag attached to the side to stop them floating about while they nap.