Something science fiction space travel ignores

Space travel

From everything we see and hear, even in real life, space travel isn’t an easy thing.

There are the usual difficulties like breathing in outer space, for which people bring oxygen. Eating in outer space, for which they bring food. And drinking, for which they bring beer, wine, whisky and even water.

Commonly overlooked

What strikes me quite a lot, lately, is that some things are commonly overlooked. Simple things like laundry for instance. Laundry also requires water. Lots of it, as we know. Now, you can say that laundry water can be recycled, which is true. Grey water can be reused a few times, and apparently the results are quite good. However, it means you have to store that water somewhere.

Star Trek red-shirts

Imagine the star ship Enterprise. According to the star trek database, there were 430 people aboard the first Enterprise. That is a lot of people.

Suppose they change clothes 3 times a week (conservative) except the red-shirts who get slapped around a lot more. imagine the amount of laundry that has to be processed.

Invention: beads.

A company called Xeros invented a way to wash clothes with (almost) no water, but that still has its drawbacks. (Link to CNBC article.) They came up with a system of small, polymer beads that you put in the laundry and, according to the gentleman interviewed, these beads clean clothes better than just water. The process still requires water, though. Water that has to be brought along. And, in the interview, the spokesman says that you need a LOT of beads for the process to work. Even more space for storage wasted.

The smart way to go about this would be to go naked. Naked means no need for laundry, at least a lot less.

7 of 9 from Star Trek

Of course, knowing the crew of the Enterprise, they would run into civilisations that wear clothes, so the people on away missions would wear clothes as well, but that would be 10 to perhaps 25 people at most. Which leaves more than 400 people clothes-free – and laundry-free.

Take in water

But you can take in fresh water on friendly planets, I hear you say. Sure, no problem. Donate your dirty water, get fresh water and off you go. But what if you hit a strange quadrant, like Star Trek Voyager? Where there are no friendly civilisations, or no civilisations at all, just unfriendly planets like Saturn, Neptune and Venus?

Water might become a problem rapidly.

Maybe you have better ideas. I’ll stick to nude space travel for now.

8 thoughts on “Something science fiction space travel ignores”

  1. Paul, the late T. H. (Tom) Pine addressed the issue well in his Father Al Takes a Vacation trilogy. The middle-aged Roman Catholic priest is burned out and takes a vacation, a trip round our sun’s planets. He is greeted on board by a statuesque naked young woman who is his guide on the journey. She explains the reasons for nudity (as you set it out above). He overcomes his embarrassment and enjoys the company of all on board. I enjoyed these three futuristic science fiction fantasies.

  2. my first thought is a type 1 kardeshev (or maybe type 2?) society would be able to manufacture water at their leisure through gathering hydrogen (very abundant in space) and oxygen and stuff from like asteroids, micro meteorites and stuff… but that whole process would still be time consuming for sure : )

  3. If we’re talking about plausible excuses to include nudism in a space exploration story, I would also point to the issue of keeping contaminants/biological hazards off the spaceship’s interior, as well as the hazzle of dressing up and down with bulky spacesuits whenever the crew needs to go out.

    How long can people endure a slow and annoying de-contamination process, or following endless checklist to prep their spacesuits, before they think “screw it” and stop bothering to dress back into their regular clothes at all? Especially if they’re going to be back in the airlock in a short while anyway.

    This reminds me a bit of the “cleaning rituals” we’ve seen people do during the pandemic when returning home became a long and tedious chore of stripping and desinfecting layer after layer before you felt ‘safe’ again. Many people discovered home-nudism due to this added hazzle, and I can imagine fictional space explorers would experience a similar thing.

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