Adult Diapers & More Uncommon Knowledge About Astronauts

NASA logo

In 1961 when astronaut Alan Shepard was preparing to be the first American launched into space, he realized that NASA had experienced a major oversight. After several launch delays of the Freedom 7 mission caused Shepard to wait in the capsule for hours, he communicated an important message to Mission Control: he had to use the bathroom. Unable to leave the craft to do his business, NASA scientists were hesitant to give Shepard the okay to urinate in his suit, as they were concerned that the urine could cause the body monitoring cables of his suit to short-circuit. Ultimately, he was given the “all clear” and became the first American in space, although he accomplished this goal with a wet suit.

NASA & MAGs or Maximum Absorbency Garments

Aldrin Apollo 11Since this event, NASA has taken steps to accommodate the physiological needs of its astronauts. It has since created Maximum Absorbency Garments, sometimes referred to as space diapers or MAGs. This piece of clothing is worn by astronauts during liftoff, landings, spacewalks, and extra-vehicular activities in which making it to a bathroom simply isn’t possible. Astronauts cannot safely remove their spacesuits when involved in long operations, so the MAG is worn in the event of an emission.

MAGs are similar in structure and function to adult diapers, but they have been modified so that they are pulled on like shorts. They are to be worn under the Liquid Cooling and Ventilation Garment as part of a space suit. Each astronaut is given three MAGS for space shuttle missions: one for launch, one for re-entry, and a spare.

MAGs have been specially designed to absorb liquid while pulling it away from the skin. Sodium polyacrylate, a powdered chemical absorbent, is incorporated into the fabric. It is thought that this chemical can absorb about one thousand times its weight in liquid, making it a great addition to MAGs, as astronauts typically need to wear these garments for extended periods of time.

History of Diapers in Space

Space Shuttle Columbia launching

The current MAG prototype isn’t the only variety that NASA has used with its astronauts. Throughout the era of the Apollo missions, astronauts wore urine and fecal containment systems beneath spandex trunks. The urine collection device involved a condom-like sheath that was attached to a tube connected to a pouch. When women became astronauts in the late 1970s, NASA attempted to create feminized versions of these devices, but they were largely unsuccessful.

Next, NASA created Disposable Absorption Containment Trunk (DACT) which could be used for both female and male astronauts. These pads were first used during the 1983 Challenger mission, and they specifically addressed the needs of women since they were leak-resistant, manageable, and comfortable.

In 1988, the current Maximum Absorbency Garment was created, first for females, and later for males. In the 1990s, a supply of 3,200 of the diapers was ordered. As of 2007, about 1,000 of these products remained.

Astronaut Space Suits

Bathrooms in Space

Incontinence Information

Incontinence Self-Care Resources