Underwear in Space?

Carrie Fisher famously told the story of how, during the making of the Star Wars movies, director George Lucas convinced her to go commando under her costumes, because, “there is no underwear in space”. So off with the bra and panties!
According to what Lucas reportedly told Fisher, in space, when one is weightless, the flesh expands – and normal underwear would become too small and constrictive. Is this true?

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Another space film which received some criticism on the underwear issue was Gravity. Sandra Bullock’s character floats weightlessly in the space station in boy-short undies and a singlet. According to a professional astronaut, this just does not ring true at all…

It seems that attire in space is anything but sexy.

So what do astronauts wear under their space suits?

Underneath the heavy and cumbersome space suit, an astronaut wears a liquid cooling and ventilation garment. This resembles a set of thermal underwear, with cooling tubes for water to keep the body temperature stable. And underneath this? Adult diapers, or nappies.

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Called Maximum Absorbency Garments (MAGs), they have extra absorbency properties and are worn during lift off, landing, and “space walking”, to absorb what would usually be deposited in the toilet. Both male and female astronauts wear them. While in all possible instances the astronaut will use lavatory facilities on the space station instead, the MAG provides peace of mind. Space suits are not easy to get on and off.

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NASA astronauts are given MAGs for launch, spacewalking, and re-entry attempts. They also drink a large amount of salty water before re-entry as fluids are not retained in zero-gravity; this prevents them from fainting when being re-exposed to gravity on Earth.

These undergarments become drenched in sweat – apparently human bodies get hot out there.

And what happens to the dirty underwear? Apparently dirty laundry gets tossed into a resupply ship which is unmanned. When the ship is chock full of rubbish (including those adult nappies), the hatch is closed, it is undocked, and floats off into space to fall into the atmosphere – where it burns up on its fall towards Earth. Now we all know what is in space dust…