HOW TO STAY FRESH IN SPACE
What does it take for two friends to get through 90 days off-grid in a tiny moon habitat without getting a serious attack of cabin fever? A scary movie for Halloween, a bit of ABBA, and LABFRESH t-shirts, of course!
The Ultimate Test
In 2020, space architects and friends Sebastian Aristotelis and Karl-Johan Sørensen put LABFRESH t-shirts to the ultimate test: Staying isolated for 90 days in a 7,5 m2 pod in one of the most inhospitable places on Earth – northeastern Greenland – with only baby wipes for personal hygiene. If any sort of ordeal could test the ultimate limits of LABFRESH’s stain repellent and antibacterial technology, this was definitely it. But how did it go?
"Today is the special day. Today is that one time a week, where we can change our t-shirts"
We are on the Moon
In order to produce as realistic results as possible, the experiment had one unbendable rule: Sebastian and Karl-Johan had to work and act 100% as if they were on the moon. This meant that they had to wear a space suit when going outside, only eat freeze-dried foods, not shower and only wear a type of clothes that lived up to NASA rules about being anti-flammable, antibacterial, and stain repellent. To find clothes with those particular qualities, Sebastian and Karl-Johan reached out to LABFRESH, whose FreshCore™ technology already lived up to the NASA apparel playbook. LABFRESH, a company also founded in a spirit of adventure and pioneering, eagerly obliged, and provided Karl-Johan and Sebastian with enough t-shirts to last them through their 90-day Arctic ordeal.
“Today is the special day,” as Sebastian says in the Danish Broadcasting Network’s documentary about the experiment, “today is that one time a week where we can change our t-shirts!” With a 90 day trip, that means that Sebastian and Karl-Johan needed roughly a dozen LABFRESH t-shirts each. When going to space every kilo counts. And with the number of t-shirt changes so low, LABFRESH t-shirts’ antibacterial and stain repellent properties were more vital than ever.
The Importance of Well-Being
As space architects, Sebastian and Karl-Johan are not only driven by the desire to create temporary homes for moon-faring astronauts that guarantee bodily survival, but also offer living quarters that the brave men and women can actually . . . well, live in. This means thinking beyond the physical demands of the human body, and, instead, engaging with the mental and spiritual aspects of prolonged isolation under the most dangerous circumstances imaginable.
While Sebastian and Karl-Johan’s drive to design livable quarters for astronauts is motivated by a general curiosity about how architecture might help humans thrive in extreme environments, their work on the subject is nothing if not topical. As NASA plans to bring humans back to the moon in 2025 with the Artemis mission, the well-being of the astronauts is imperative, and Sebastian and Karl-Johan hope that their work can help NASA ensure precisely that.
Most of us probably imagine architects sitting by a giant desk, pen in hand, working on the designs of a building that they’ll eventually hand off to the engineers. But Sebastian and Karl-Johan are no desk-warriors. For two years, they worked on drawing and building their LUNARK moon habitat themselves, and when it was finally done they decided to subject themselves to an experiment of a lifetime: Staying for 90 days in the habitat in North Greenland, the closest thing Earth offers to the conditions on the Moon. As will be the case for future visitors to the moon, this meant living off-grid in a tiny habitat with no internet access and in complete isolation from civilization or other human beings. Raging storms and polar bears – the latter (hopefully) not present on the moon – added a taste of the visceral sense of danger that astronauts also have to live with.
"Everything needs to be just perfect. And the t-shirts LABFRESH provided were just that!"
The Devil is in the Details
The importance of high-quality items with particular properties applied to everything Sebastian and Karl-Johan brought with them to Greenland. “Because you are confined to such a small area everything you sense is suddenly important,” Sebastian tells LABFRESH. “The lighting, the walls, the objects surrounding you, the food, and the clothes you wear, you experience them in a completely different and much more intense way than you would at home. At home, you can just put on a new t-shirt if the one you wear gets a stain or if it’s a bad fit. But in Greenland – not to speak of on the Moon – that’s not an option.
Everything needs to be just perfect. And the t-shirts LABFRESH provided were just that! Even after six days it was a pleasure to wear the same t-shirt. Without them, life in the pod would’ve been so uncomfortable,” Sebastian explains and adds with a laugh, “and pretty smelly, I think.”
What’s to Come
After the experiment ended, Sebastian and Karl-Johan are continuing their work on space architecture (and still wearing their LABFRESH t-shirts, too!). A direct outcome of the experiment was that they were able to test a lighting panel mimicking natural sunlight. The panel is now certified for space use and will join Danish astronaut Andreas Mogensen as he travels to the international space station ISS for a months-long stay in August 2023.
Looking even further down the (Milky) way, the two space architects would love to work with LABFRESH again and have already been in talks with LABFRESH founders Lotte and Kasper about developing space grade fabric for space travel. “Not even the sky is the limit for astronauts,” Sebastian ends our conversation noting, “but uncomfortable or smelly clothes just might be.”