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Space travel can be a dirty affair

Moscow, Sept. 26 (AFP): The world’s first female space tourist and first space blogger, American national Anousheh Ansari, told the world yesterday of the difficulties of keeping tidy in zero gravity.

“Well my friends, I must admit keeping good hygiene in space is not easy!” the Iranian-born woman wrote, saying she would reveal what “everyone wants to know” but is too modest to ask.

The 2,000 or so readers’ comments that have appeared on Ansari’s website, spaceblog.Xprize.org, since she took off from the Russian Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on September 18 have largely been expressions of admiration and encouragement.

“Water does not ‘flow’ here, it ‘floats’ — which makes it a challenging act to clean yourself,” Ansari said, explaining that astronauts bathe with wet and dry towels and swallow after brushing their teeth, which they refer to as “the fresh mint effect”.

Ansari said she had been given the personal hygiene kit of Daisuke Enomoto, a would-be space tourist from Japan who was pulled from the flight because of health problems, leaving her with “a razor and lots of shaving cream, but no makeup”.

Hair-washing in space brings its own difficulties.

“You basically take a water bag and slowly make a huge water bubble over your head and then very, very gently, using a dry shampoo, you wash your hair,” Ansari said. “At the slightest sudden movement, little water bubbles start floating everywhere.”

Ansari promised to share videos of the process upon her return to earth.

Since all water in the International Space Station (ISS) is recycled, wet objects are left to air dry so the station’s water conduction unit can collect and purify the water — including that from sweaty workout clothes.

“One of the cosmonauts told me: ‘We are all very close to each other, like brothers and sisters, it is very unique because we drink each other’s sweat.’ Now I know well what he means,” Ansari said.

More poetic was Ansari’s description of seeing Earth shortly after the Russian Soyuz TMA-9 spacecraft blasted off to bring her to the ISS.

“Tears started rolling down my face. I could not catch my breath... Even thinking about it now still brings tears to my eyes. Here it was, this beautiful planet turning graciously about itself, under the warm rays of the sun... So peaceful... So full of life... No signs of war, no signs of borders, no signs of trouble, just pure beauty.”

Most of the comments on the blog have come from readers in the US and Iran, but numerous other countries have been represented, and comments have been written in English, Farsi, Spanish, Swedish and French.

The blog by the world’s fourth-ever space tourist started well before Ansari’s takeoff.

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