Cosmic Log

Shampooing in outer space will make your hair stand on end

July 11, 2013 at 10:46 AM ET

Zero-gravity hair care is easy when you've got Italian spaceflier Luca Parmitano's chrome dome — but what if you're NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, whose hair floats like a foot-long mane on the International Space Station? Nyberg makes shampooing look easy, if somewhat hair-raising, in a video sent down from orbit.

There's no showering on the space station, and you'd never want to let globs of shampoo, conditioner and water float free. The key is to use no-rinse shampoo, a comb, a towel and a little warm water from a pouch. Nyberg just squirts the shampoo and the water into her scalp, and then works the liquid into her straight hair with her hands and the comb. She rubs out the moisture with the towel.

"Makes you feel kinda squeaky clean right now," she says.

The finishing touch is to let those locks air-dry before tying it up into a ponytail.

"As the water evaporates from my hair, it will become humidity in the air, and our air-conditioning system will collect that into condensate," Nyberg says, "and it won't be long and our water processing system will turn that into drinking water."

Does that make you go "eww"? That's just the way things are done on the space station, where air and water are precious. The water recycling system routinely recaptures moisture from the air — and yes, from the space station's toilet system as well. Bottoms up!

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Alan Boyle is NBCNews.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the NBC News Science Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding +Alan Boyle to your Google+ circles.

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