Astronauts wear various types of clothing for all
aspects of a mission to space. Whether preparing for launch, working
inside the space shuttle or the space station, working outside in
space, or landing back on Earth, astronauts wear the proper garments
for both comfort and protection.
Space Station Clothing
International Space Station crewmembers choose the
shirts, shorts and pants they will wear in space months before they
are scheduled to launch. In fact, their clothes often arrive at
the space station before they do, via a Progress resupply vehicle
or a space shuttle.
Space station crews can choose from either Russian
or U.S. clothing supplies. They also have the option of ordering
two versions of Russian coveralls -- heavy or light-duty -- to work
in aboard the space station.
Because it's expensive to take supplies into space
and there's no washing machine aboard the space station -- in order
to save water -- station crews don't change clothes as often as
people do on Earth. Of course, since they don't go outside, except
in a spacesuit, they don't get as dirty as people living on Earth.
They're also able to bathe every day and after exercising. The Expedition
Six commander, Ken Bowersox, did find a way to wash his favorite
pair of shorts, however (see the video section at right).
On average, station crewmembers get one pair of shorts
and a T-shirt for every three days of exercising. Their work shirts
and pants/shorts are changed, on average, once every 10 days. Crewmembers
generally get a new T-shirt to wear under their work shirts every
10 days. Underwear and socks are changed every other day, but PolartecTM
socks, which are worn if a crewmember's feet get cold, must last
a month. They also get two sweaters.
In addition, each crewmember gets a pair of running
shoes to use on the station's treadmill and another pair of shoes
to wear when using the station's exercise bicycle.
When a piece of clothing has been worn as many times
as possible, it's placed in a bag for disposal. Very little clothing
is brought home by space station crewmembers. Most of it is eventually
placed in the Progress resupply vehicle before it undocks from the
space station. The dirty clothing and other garbage then burns up
with the Progress when it re-enters the Earth's atmosphere.
Space Shuttle Clothing
Like space station crewmembers, shuttle astronauts
choose their clothing months before their launch, often selecting
tops that have their mission's logo sewn on them. Unlike space station
crewmembers, however, shuttle astronauts bring a change of clothes
for every day of their mission.
Space shuttle crewmembers can choose to wear pants
or shorts depending on what they're doing aboard the shuttle and
the temperature inside the spacecraft. They also have the option
of wearing long- or short-sleeve polo shirts or rugby shirts, as
well as sweaters and pullovers.
Like space station crews, shuttle astronauts wear
shorts and T-shirts when they exercise. The pants they wear are
covered with plenty of pockets and velcro. The pockets and velcro
help them keep everything they're working with near them. Without
gravity, anything a person lets go of will float away - to be found
later on the filtering screen of the shuttle's air circulation system.
This screen is the shuttle's version of the Lost and Found section.
Station crewmembers also report finding their lost items on the
screens of the space station's air circulation system.
Launch and Landing
During launch and entry aboard a space shuttle, crew
members use the orange Launch and Entry Suits you see astronauts
wearing as they walk out to the launch pad at the Kennedy Space
Center in Florida.
In the event of a pressure leak in the space shuttle's
flight cabin, the suits would maintain a positive air pressure around
the astronaut. This provides enough air pressure for the astronaut
to survive the return to Earth during an emergency landing. Should
an astronaut be forced to bail out over cold water, the pressurized
suit would also provide thermal protection.
The LES, as it is called, provides an emergency oxygen
system; parachute harness; parachute pack with automatic opener,
pilot chute, drogue chute and main canopy; a life raft; two liters
of emergency drinking water; flotation devices; and survival vest
pockets containing a radio/beacon, signal mirror, shroud cutter,
pen gun flare kit, sea dye marker, smoke flare and beacon. The attached
parachute can be opened automatically or manually.
If the crew is using a Russian Soyuz spacecraft for
launch and landing, they will wear the Russian Sokol suit, which
functions like the U.S. Launch and Entry Suit.