Tuesday, December 11, 2007

ISS does not smell like old feet

I work with Ed Lu, who is a former astronaut who spent 6 months in the ISS, without taking a shower. I asked the obvious question, didn't you and everything else just stink?

No. Ed says that the air conditioning/purification system was ridiculously good, so much so that the only time you ever smelled anything was when you opened a food packet. Even then, the smell was whisked away pretty quickly.

I asked if there was problems with vapor from breathing condensing all over the interior of the spacecraft walls. Apparently not. The thing has hot spots as well as cold spots, and heat pipes to balance it all out, and lots of insulation over that. Apparently stuff doesn't freeze. Given that the thing is cold soaked in sub-liquid-nitrogen temps 45 of every 90 minutes, I'm amazed. I was expecting a story of two-inch-thick ice sheets on the interior walls.


  1. Given that the thing is cold soaked in sub-liquid-nitrogen temps 45 of every 90 minutes

    Not to take away from the "that's cold" aspect, but orbital night is a lot shorter than orbital day. In fact, for parts of the year, the inclination of ISS and the tilt of the Earth combine to keep the ISS in near-total daylight. Also half the sky is filled by a relatively warm Earth.

    From what I've read, Mir was not so smell free and I've seen pictures of gray blobs of aggregated water living behind panels. Icky.

    But yeah, damn cold and ridiculous thermal gradients. I'm always amazed the thing doesn't tear itself apart just from thermal cycling.


  2. Half the sky is filled with the relatively warm Earth, which from orbit appears to be something like -30 C! I'm going to have to find out more about these heat pipes.

    Nice to hear from you again, John!

  3. ...and I'm full of crap. This reference gives the mean radiation temp of the earth at 15 C, well above freezing.