As Japan’s first astronaut to spend long duration missions on board the International Space Station, Koichi Wakata has had the opportunity to do all sorts of interesting experiments the past few months. For example, he conducted several different cellular growth and crystal growth experiments, and has even flown a magic carpet in space. One other experiment has been – shall we say – kept under wraps. Wakata has been wearing the same underwear on board the ISS for two months.
“(For) two months I was wearing these underwear and there was no smell and nobody complained,” Wakata, speaking in Japanese, said through an interpreter during a press conference this weekend from the ISS. “I think that new J-ware underwear is very good for myself and my colleagues.”
Wakata has been wearing special underwear and other clothing called “J-ware” designed for the Japanese space agency. According to an article in Discovery News, the clothes are treated with antibacterial and deodorizing materials. In addition to odor control, the clothes are designed to absorb water, insulate the body and dry quickly. They also are flame-resistant and anti-static — as well as comfortable and attractive.
Typically, clothes can only be worn for a few days in space, and especially the clothing worn by astronauts as they exercise. Since there’s no laundromat in space, the clothing is discarded as garbage.
Astronaut Takao Doi, who flew with a shuttle crew last year to deliver Japan’s Kibo laboratory to the station, exercised as much as his crewmates, but his clothes stayed dry.
Wakata’s clothes include long- and short-sleeved shirts, pants, shorts and underwear. Special socks have a separate pouch for the big toes so the astronauts can use their feet like an extra pair of hands, helpful for anchoring themselves on the floor while doing work on the station.
Originally, Wakata was scheduled to wear the underwear for just a couple of weeks. But obviously, he decided to go the long duration route.
At least he wasn’t testing this other option proposed by JAXA. Read more about these special underwear here.
Wakata heads home with the crew of the STS-127 mission, undocking from the ISS today. The first landing opportunity is Friday, July 31.
Sources: Discovery News, Free Space