Sunday, August 2, 2009

Space undies make their mark

Posted 33 minutes ago
Updated 9 minutes ago
No complaints here... Koichi Wakata wore the moisture-absorbent, odour-eating and bacteria-killing proto-type underwear for a month.

No complaints here... Koichi Wakata wore the moisture-absorbent, odour-eating and bacteria-killing proto-type underwear for a month. (Reuters: NASA)

A Japanese astronaut has boldly gone where no-one has ever gone before - and so have his underpants.

Koichi Wakata wore moisture-absorbent, odour-eating and bacteria-killing proto-type underwear for a month as he worked in the orbiting International Space Station (ISS).

Seeing the results may not be for the faint-hearted but this month-long undies experiment was all in the name of science.

In a video link-up only a few days before landing back on Earth, Mr Wakata said he had come clean with his fellow crew members about his space undies.

His understanding crew members did not even complain after Mr Wakata chowed down several space curries but, as they say, in space no-one can hear you scream.

"I wore [the underwear] for about a month and my space and crew members never complained ... so I think the experiment went fine," he said.

"I am returning and we will see the results after landing."

When the shuttle Endeavour brought the astronaut back to Earth, having orbited the planet more than 2,000 times, Mr Wakata - who spent a total 138 days in space - bequeathed his unique underwear to science.

NASA has already stressed the importance of testing any new product which will improve an astronaut's quality of life.

Right now residents of the ISS simply stuff their dirty laundry into Russian cargo modules and jettison them towards the Earth where they burn up in the atmosphere.

Britain Science Museum curator Doug Millard says cutting back on underwear saves money.

"Every kilogram of mass we put into space costs many, many dollars so if you can cut down on the number of undies you have to take up into space, you are saving money," he said.

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