‘Tide to Go’ is taking a trip to space. Procter & Gamble (P&G) is teaming up with NASA to keep astronauts’ spacesuits fresh even on Mars. Scientists from the company and NASA have developed a degradable detergent that cleans garments without wasting water. Fabric care goods, including Tide to Go pens and wipes, will be tested on the International Space Station in 2022 and on missions to the moon and Mars during the next decade.
The relationship could have wider implications for Earthbound consumers than just a few astronauts who travel to space. Climate change is already putting a strain on the world’s water supply, creating droughts in some areas and flooding in others. According to the World Resources Institute, a quarter of the world’s population is under “very high” water stress.
Shailesh Jejurikar, chief executive officer of P&G’s fabric and home care division said, “Scientific breakthroughs always start from a very limited application, but when we get that breakthrough, the ability to use it to solve today’s problems on Earth is going to be phenomenal.”
Many discoveries made possible by space research and development have influenced people on Earth, including a new water purifier, the technology that led to CAT and MRI equipment, and medications to better treat muscle atrophy and bone loss.
According to Jejurikar, NASA contacted P&G to help tackle the cleaning issues that astronauts confront in space. The consumer packaged goods behemoth has had a Space Act Agreement with NASA since August, according to NASA filings. The partnership is non-reimbursable and has an estimated financial worth of more than $111,000, thus each party is responsible for its own participation expenses in this “Mission PGTide.”
Because astronauts spend months or even years away from Earth, their spacesuits and clothing can get stinky and soiled. Clothes must be reworn multiple times before being expelled into the atmosphere with other debris or returned to Earth as trash. Resupply shipments will provide a crew member with 160 pounds of clothing per year.
“It’s actually an extremely tough cleaning challenge. Astronauts, to stay fit, need to work out a couple of hours every day to manage their health,” Jejurikar said. “And if you’re working out two to three hours every day, it’s going to be sweaty.”
However, the changes in gravity and the requirement to reuse every drop of water provide particular obstacles for laundry in their position. According to Jejurikar, while Tide’s innovation approach is the same as usual, the constraints shape the team’s efforts.
Tide declared a goal earlier this year to lower its greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2030. P&G is also a founding member of the 50L Home Coalition, which aims to reduce individual water consumption from 500 to 50 litres per day to combat water scarcity and climate change. Jejurikar is the co-chair of the group.