Have you ever been curious about how astronauts wash their hair? Even in the International Space Station (ISS), away from the dirt, grim, and pollution of Earth, astronauts’ hair doesn’t stay perpetually clean — it needs to get shampooed. So, exactly how do astronauts wash their hair?
In the newly released video below, astronaut Karen Nyberg, 43, demonstrates exactly how astronauts wash their hair — in space, aboard the ISS.
Though other women astronauts have been aboard the ISS before, Nyberg is currently the only female astronaut there. Also, she is the only astronaut aboard who has hair that flows past her shoulders.
Things that are easy to do on the Earth can be quite a bit more complicated in space, like in the zero gravity environment of the ISS. Even something as small as water droplets can float about and be tricky to track down and recover.
In zero gravity, Karen Nyberg’s blond hair has the tendency to billow wildly around her head, even when her hair is pulled back in a ponytail. But when she lets her hair down to wash it, it sticks straight up above her head, and she goes full-out troll-doll-style with her coif.
As I referred to, using water can present problems in zero gravity. It won’t flow down; it would get everywhere if there was no gravity to help pull it down. With no faucet and gravity around, astronauts like Nyberg have to resort to wetting their scalps with little squirts of warm water from a bag.
Then, Nyberg works the water into her hair with her hands. Even using this method, some stray drops of water float away. You can see in the video Nyberg attempting to brush them back toward her hair.
The next step, once her hair is wet, is for Nyberg to apply some no-rinse shampoo. She works it through to the ends of her hair with a handy comb, which has been velcroed to a wall to keep it handy.
Nyberg can’t rinse her hair out in zero gravity like you would do on the Earth, to make sure that all of the dirt is gone. Instead, she simply adds a few more squirts from her bag of water and then towels her hair dry.
What happens to the water that astronauts like Nyberg use to wash their hair?
At the conclusion of the three-minute video, with Nyberg’s hair sticking up throughout, she explains what happens to the water that’s been used to clean her hair.
As Nyberg’s hair dries, the water vapor becomes humidity in the air. This condensate gets collected by the air-conditioning system inside the ISS and then the ISS’s air-conditioning system transforms it into drinking water.
You can check out the fascinating video of how astronauts like Karen Nyberg was their hair below!
Written by: Douglas Cobb
Watch the video of Karen Nyberg washing her hair aboard the ISS!