Even the most mundane things change when you’re living in the low-gravity environment of space. For instance, a washcloth doesn’t act like a washcloth. Chris Hadfield, a Canadian astronaut, demonstrated this in an April 21 video that he shot from within the International Space Station, where he is currently station.
The Canadian Space Agency released the video onto YouTube, after which it became a very quick hit—4,633,815 views as of April 22, 9 p.m. In the video, Hadfield unseals a hockey-puck-shaped object that unfurls into a washcloth. He proceeds to douse it with water from a water bag—that is to say, he has the water bag douse it, since the water shoots out of the bottle onto the cloth as soon as he opens the bottle’s lid.
Then he wrings out the washcloth. The water doesn’t drip out, as it would on Earth. Viewers first see miscellaneous drops fly off in every direction. But then, the remaining water puffs out into a thick watery tube that encases the cloth and his hands and stays on them—“like you have jello on your hands,” he says.
The water’s behavior is a visual demonstration of the effects of diminished gravity. It’s also a demonstration of the phenomenon of cohesion, by which water molecules cling to each other and to other objects even in a low-gravity environment. Astronauts must adapt to water’s low-gravity behavior by utilizing unique methods for drinking, bathing, and any other activity that involves liquids.
So how do you wash your face in space? Hadfield answered this question in another video: no-rinse soap. He presents a bag containing slightly soapy water and then squirts out a ball of water that floats on his hand and gets them wet. Then he grabs a towel and dries his hands.
These two videos are among a series of videos that Hadfield has produced, and which the Canadian Space Agency has published, on living in space. Other videos by Hadfield include how to shave in space, how space affects one’s eyesight, and how astronauts cook spinach. Every video is a response to a question that he receives from an interested young person.
Hadfield created the washcloth video, for instance, at the request of Nova Scotia high-school students Kendra Lemke and Meredith Faulkner.
Hadfield, a former Canadian Air Force officer, commands celebrity status as the first Canadian to walk in space. He’s been stationed aboard the ISS since Dec. 21, 2012. He’s been using social media to relate space living to young audiences all across Earth, having racked up more than 699,000 Twitter followers as of April 22, 2013.