RT Space 360: This is what your morning routine looks like on the ISS

RT Space 360: This is what your morning routine looks like on the ISS
Andrey Borisenko shares one of the most intimate parts of his life on the International Space Station, and one that differs significantly from those of ours on Earth, in the latest instalment of RT’s pioneering Space 360 project.

In microgravity, the only up or down is relative to the objects inside the space station, which means that cosmonauts can relax at any angle – providing that they strap themselves in so that their bodies don’t float away. In his personal sleeping pod – the only real place of privacy on the ISS, other than the toilet – Borisenko tied his sleeping bag to the “vertical” wall of his unit.

With no day or night cycle, the cosmonaut wakes himself up with the help of an alarm clock, and his first action is … to take off his wireless headphones.

“All of the crew members sleep in these every night, as the hum of the station is quite loud, and we need to protect our hearing,” says the flight engineer, who is on his second tour up on the ISS. “I personally use noise-cancelling headphones. They are not the most comfortable, but they let you get a good night’s sleep.”

After a compulsory on-board systems check – “a perfunctory one that takes five minutes tops” – the crew members, if they are getting up at the same time, race to the bathroom area.

Each cosmonaut has an individual vanity set with items for it decided on while still back on Earth. Many of the personal hygiene items – toothpicks, nail files – are everyday ones taken up to space, others, such as rinse-free shampoos and special wet cleaning towels are designed specifically for space, and have been perfected since the days of the Mir.

“The shaver is an important item. It has to be reliable and high-quality, as shaving takes longer up here than at home,” explains Borisenko, as he dumps the shavings onto the air ventilation system (“any that are not sucked away will be vacuumed up during our weekly clean-up.”)

Cleaning teeth is fussier, and together with a standard toothbrush and toothpaste, requires a bag of water for rinsing – which poses a problem once the ritual is over.

“On Earth you would simply spit out the water into the sink, but we don’t even have sinks here. So, we have to use a towel,” says Borisenko, as he carefully dabs his mouth with it, making sure that not a single drop of water escapes to float freely through the ISS corridors. The towel is then dried, and reused the following day.

As in any cramped flatshare, respect for others using the same space is paramount.

“I am going tidy everything up after myself,” promises Borisenko. “It’s always unpleasant when you come to clean yourself up in the morning, and there are smears on the mirror left from the previous person using it.”

With the cumbersome but reassuring sequence complete, Borisenko is now ready for the first meal of the day – breakfast in space. But that deserves its own separate instalment.

You can watch the next video (and previous transmissions) from Space 360 on our dedicated website, available in six languages. The project is a joint initiative of RT, Russia’s space agency Roscosmos, and Energia Rocket and Space Corporation, which delivers crews and cargo to the ISS.