TOKYO – Japanese space agency JAXA will collaborate with nine domestic companies to develop daily necessities such as dental products for use by astronauts and cosmic tourists. Koichi Wakata, an astronaut with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, is on mission on the International Space Station. He will test a range of goods while in space, including body wipes, socks and clothes.
During Wakata’s roughly six-month stay in orbit, the products — from Japanese companies such as Lion and Kao — will be sent to the ISS via successive missions.
JAXA has received nearly 100 proposals for living essentials designed for space travel since issuing the call in 2020. The agency recently narrowed the list to nine products made by nine companies.
The enormous cost of ferrying supplies to space means that water use is highly restricted. The ISS has no showers or baths. Astronauts cannot wash their hair like they would on Earth, and they clean their face with wet tissues.
It is critical that daily necessities do not require additional water. Consumer products maker Lion has developed a foam toothpaste that cleans the entire mouth but leaves no residue that needs rinsing. Astronauts normally swallow or spit out toothpaste without water after brushing.
ISS astronauts wear the same clothes every day, as the station has no washing machine, JAXA said. Clothes soaked with sweat are simply dried out and worn again.
On that front, Kao will provide two types of sheets that clean clothes and hair. Mandom, a maker of personal care products, will supply body wipes used for the same purpose.
Because of the zero-gravity environment in space, astronauts often work by hooking their feet to something. That causes socks to wear out quickly. Lingerie maker Wacoal will provide space-grade socks, while outdoor gear maker Snow Peak will send durable clothing.
Driving this trend to develop daily necessities for space travel is NASA’s launch of the Artemis program, which seeks to put humans on the moon again. Another factor is last year’s space jaunts by billionaires Jeff Bezos and Yusaku Maezawa.
In the U.S., multiple private-sector space stations are in the planning stages, with an envisioned space hotel for tourists. If this sector takes off, the demand for daily supplies will rise.
JAXA is partnering with the private sector in other areas, in part to encourage the growth of the domestic space industry. The agency has enlisted the help of Toyota Motor, Honda Motor and others in developing the manned lunar rover that will be deployed in the Artemis program.