Being an astronaut seems to have an endless list of challenges, and using the restroom when you need to is definitely one of them. They obviously don’t have access to a toilet at all times. But how do they manage in such circumstances; is a diaper part of their arsenal?
So, do astronauts wear diapers? If an astronaut is suited up, they definitely will have their diaper on. Unfortunately, space suits can be an inconvenience when it comes to the human body’s natural functions. Since accidents can happen, astronauts wear a super-absorbent diaper for those unexpected moments. This diaper is officially referred to as a Maximum Absorbency Garment or MAG.
Well, you wouldn’t want to call it a diaper if you were an astronaut, would you?
So, it only seems right to give it a fancy title like a Maximum Absorbency Garment.
Although, for the purposes of this article and our understanding, I’ll be using the term diaper throughout…
Nevertheless, let us now take a closer look at this useful part of the kit and what it all means for the bathroom!
What Is An Astronaut Diaper?
Although this garment is, luckily, rarely used, the diaper astronauts wear is officially called a Maximum Absorbency Garment or MAG. These adult diapers are worn any time astronauts suit up, during takeoff, extra-vehicular activity (EVA), and landing as well.
These aren’t your standard set of diapers, as the MAG can absorb the astronaut’s personal matter and pull it away from the skin, with a holding capacity of up to 2 liters.
It’s also made with sodium polyacrylate, a chemical powder that’s highly absorbent and lined in the diaper’s fabric.
The MAG diaper wasn’t the first version of its kind.
Before it was the fecal containment device (FCD) and the urine collection device (UCD), which lasted until 1978.
Once women joined the astronaut corps, the design of this diaper needed some re-engineering.
By the 1980s, NASA designed the disposable absorption containment trunk (DACT).
This was a universal design that would work for male and female astronauts.
Just like today’s maximum absorbency garment (MAG), the DACT had multiple layers.
This included a plastic outer liner, conform absorbent material, gelled suspension, nonwoven layer, and tricot liner.
The DACT was replaced by the MAG in 1988 for female astronauts, and male astronauts soon followed after.
Considering the hassle using the restroom in your suit could cause, astronauts take fairly precautious measures to make sure they don’t end up in an emergency situation while suited up on a spacewalk.
Additionally, the MAG is worn underneath the Liquid Cooling and Ventilation Garment and doesn’t obstruct anything else in the suit.
There are other purposes for these diapers; occasionally, an astronaut may faint during launch, re-entry, or even during EVA.
During this time, the astronaut may have an accident as they don’t have any control, and the MAG would be there to save the day.
Do Astronauts Have To Wear Diapers In Space?
Astronauts do have to wear diapers in space – in fact; they are going to want to as the bathroom isn’t always accessible. Thankfully, diapers are not always required one hundred percent of the time.
Astronauts have access to bathroom facilities on the spaceship, and they’re more than welcome to roam diaper-free.
When duty calls, and it’s time to suit up, the adult diaper comes with it.
The spacesuit takes roughly 15 minutes to put on and take off, and working during EVA means every minute is precious.
Rarely do astronauts have time to waste, and having a bathroom emergency simply can’t get in the way.
As usual, NASA has them covered and makes sure their space suit is a proper life support system.
When specifically speaking about EVA or spacewalks, these sessions can go on for hours and be quite fatiguing for the astronaut.
In some cases, they may not even have the luxury of going back to the ship for a break.
Considering their current environmental conditions, time available, and the many variables surround EVA in space; a specialized adult diaper is needed.
Thankfully, there haven’t been many daunting reports of astronauts having bathroom accidents during EVA.
This doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t happen, and although each waste system previously described may sound uncomfortable, it’s much better than having limited to no protection at all.
NASA is always working on innovating the spacesuit inside and out with many factors in mind.
Comfort and functionality are both essential but can be pretty tricky to achieve with the complications of space.
Yes, those are factors that need to be considered, as well as reliability.
The harsh environment of outer space requires some heavy-duty equipment, and currently, the maximum absorbency garment is the best at its job.
Do Astronauts Go To The Bathroom In Their Suits?
Although they do their best to try and wait until they get back to the ship, they do so only in an emergency situation.
To clarify, if you were to ask an astronaut the same question, they’d probably start off by saying they don’t do it because that was their first choice.
In these situations, if an astronaut were to use their MAG, it’s simply because using the bathroom at that very moment wasn’t a choice.
If it’s convenient for them and the job at hand, astronauts can go back to the spaceship to use the bathroom, but most will do their best to avoid this.
Sure, the way the MAG is designed provides the best-case scenario for such an event, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t still be uncomfortable.
Astronauts will manage their water and food intake during EVA to avoid having the urge to use their MAG.
From its design, the MAG seems it would handle urine quite well and has more than enough absorbency to take it.
When it comes to fecal matter, that could be quite an uncomfortable situation during extra-vehicular activity.
Any astronaut in their right mind would do their best to hold it, but outer space, unfortunately, doesn’t give us all the simple luxuries we may be used to.
NASA has put a decent amount of engineering into this area of the suit since the start of space travel.
They’ve come a long way and have much farther to go.
There would need to be quite a few specific factors at play for an astronaut to use their MAG.
Extra-vehicular activity can be tiresome enough without feeling like you have to go back to the ship to use the restroom.
Each astronaut is more than prepared to do what they have to do given their current circumstances.
What Do Astronauts Do With Their Poop in Space?
Inside the space station’s toilet is a waste hygiene component, with a canister that collects solid waste.
Interestingly enough, these canisters get disposed of above during the destructive force of re-entry.
With urine, it gets collected and sent through the ship’s distillation assembly within the Water Recovery System.
This turns urine into useable water for the crew members.
Astronauts have to go through a special kind of potty training to properly use the space station’s bathroom facilities.
Keep in mind, this is multi-million dollar equipment, and misusing it could lead to some big mistakes.
Air vents inside the toilet provide the proper suction needed to transport solid waste out and away from the human body.
They’re taught to have their body lined up perfectly, as waste could have damaging effects on the vacuum equipment.
Astronauts only have one or two options when needing to use the restroom, so these facilities must always be operational.
NASA only had one sole bathroom until 2008, then added a new commode to the US segment of the ISS’s orbiting outpost, as its original bathroom had many issues and breakdowns.
The primary reason for the vacuum-style toilet is because liquids don’t move around like they do in Earth’s atmosphere.
In space, liquids will stick together and form a glob-like shape.
Without the vacuum in the toilet, the astronauts wouldn’t be having the best experience trying to use the restroom in zero gravity.
Even though this process seems complicated, astronauts are trained to manage it, and it isn’t too much of an inconvenience for them.
Of course, that’s as long as the facilities are operational at all times.
Well, to be technically correct here, we should be using the term Maximum Absorbency Garment or MAG.
That’s what the astronauts do, at least.
And while they may not seem glamorous, they’re undoubtedly beneficial.
Besdies, the luxuries of our day-to-day are just not available to our heroes in space.