Space slingshots and laundry

international space station

I am not now, nor have I ever been an astronaut. I know, you’re shocked.  I honestly have not even given much thought to what it must be like to be an astronaut. I imagine they float around, drink a lot of Tang and pee in a bottle. The latter is probably due to all the Tang.  

One thing I did assume, however, is that once they break the bounds of earth and gravity, they can at least count on not having to do household chores. Alas, no. A press release by Procter and Gamble, the makers of Tide laundry detergent, is bringing to light NASA’s own dirty laundry. Literally. 


Currently, International Space Station laundry is ejected into the atmosphere in the ultimate act of space littering. This is as if you just opened the door and flung all your dirty clothes out into the yard. That is if your yard would burn clothes to smithereens the moment they entered the atmosphere. 

Further reports state that roughly 160 pounds of clothing per crew member per year are tossed into space. Coming up with a way to clean and dry laundry without polluting the space station or space itself is a challenge. Ingredients compatible with life support systems and limited water are a must. 

More importantly, all wash water must be purified back into drinking water.  I think I will take my Tang dry, thanks. 


Procter & Gamble is not the first company to consider the need to keep outer space tidy. Lestoil, the all-purpose cleaner, ran an ad 60 years ago promising that “Women of the future will make the moon a cleaner place to live.” No word on what men of the future were doing. Probably tracking in all the space dirt and leaving flags lying about, I suppose. 

I don’t know about you, but I have never once considered if the moon was clean or not. From the video I’ve seen, it looks kind of dusty, honestly. Of course, everyone keeps walking on it with their boots on, so that’s to be expected. Maybe Mars needs to be a “shoes off” planet. Start out on the right foot and all.  


Proving once again that we cannot have nice things, CNN reports that swirling above us is a cloud of space debris weighing approximately 9,000 tons. They further report that this is the equivalent of “720 school buses,” just in case you need a more alarming visual. 

The methods proposed to remove this debris include giant nets, hooks and a “space slingshot.” I am assuming engineers with much more focus and sense than I possess will be working on that. I cannot stop giggling. Space slingshot? Is this for real?  

Meanwhile, here on Earth, I am intrigued by the idea of just setting fire to dirty laundry. I really think we should circle back to that. If not fire, I would settle for a really big slingshot.  


Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!



We are glad you have chosen to leave a comment. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated according to our comment policy.

Receive emails as this discussion progresses.