Mundane housework duties also have to be fulfilled in order to keep the orbiting outpost spick and span.
To make the task as simple and efficient as possible, NASA created a vacuum cleaner that attaches to the back of the person tasked with the job, as demonstrated in this video (above) featuring recent space station arrival Matthias Maurer.
As it’s a 360-degree video, you can drag the picture in all directions to follow Maurer as he floats around the European Columbus and Japanese Kibo modules, with his back-based cleaner sucking up dust as he goes. Vacuuming can be dull at the best of times, but this certainly looks like a fun way to get the job done.
“Even astronauts in orbit cannot escape housework,” The European Space Agency (ESA) says in comments accompanying the video. The agency points out that unlike on Earth, microgravity conditions mean that dust inside the space station doesn’t settle, so astronauts “vacuum regularly to prevent floating dust from getting in their eyes and noses, causing irritation and allergic reactions.” It’s also important to remove dust to prevent it from clogging up vents and machinery inside the station.
The ISS is said to have the volume of a five-bedroom house or two Boeing 747 jetliners, so there’s certainly plenty to keep clean as the facility orbits 250 miles above Earth.
Maurer arrived at the ISS in November in what is his first time in space. His mission, called “Cosmic Kiss,” is set to last six months and will include working on a range of science experiments … and, yes, performing regular cleaning duties, too.
Other mundane tasks aboard the space station include washing your hair, emptying the toilet, and dealing with the trash that accumulates.
To find out more about everyday life aboard the International Space Station, check out these insightful videos made by different astronauts who’ve visited the facility over the years.