Thom Baur / Northrup Grumman / AP
Hygiene and self-care are vital, even in the absence of gravity. That’s why astronauts on the International Space Station are preparing for a fun delivery: a skincare serum from cosmetics manufacturer Estée Lauder, plus a new and improved toilet.
Astronauts will not actually use the brand’s advanced night repair synchronized multi-recovery complex, says Robyn Gatens, interim director of the International Space Station. Instead, the plan is for them to take photos and videos in the $ 105 per bottle serum space which the company will then be able to use for advertising on its social media channels. According to ABC News, it will cost Estée Lauder $ 17,500 an hour.
Estée Lauder will auction at least one of 10 bottles flying into space for charity, Gatens said in an interview with NPR’s Sunday weekend edition.
Even if astronauts wanted to sign up using the product – like the Get Ready With Me videos that many influencers posted on YouTube to showcase their beauty routines – they wouldn’t be able to. As government employees, they cannot participate in product sponsorship.
That doesn’t mean they’re unrelated to commercial and marketing activities, something NASA has reserved 90 crew hours for. In 2019, for example, DoubleTree by Hilton sent its chocolate chip cookies to the Space Station to be the first cooked food in space.
Gatens said NASA hopes this type of business “will open up business opportunities for companies that may never have thought of doing business in space.”
Eventually, the International Space Station will have to be withdrawn, and NASA hopes to use a potential private space station in the future as a base in lower Earth orbit.
“We will be a customer, but we need other customers to be able to purchase services on those commercial platforms other than NASA to support their operations,” he said. “Through the Space Station today we are enabling activities like this to allow companies to try to do business on the Space Station and see if there are any activities that can be enabled.”
One thing NASA won’t be returning, though, are two new bathrooms. Gatens said the bathrooms – which together cost $ 23 million – have special hardware designed to operate in microgravity conditions. One will be piloted by the Orion probe for the Artemis 2 mission and the other will head for the International Space Station.
“It’s very different from a bathroom you’d go to buy at Home Depot and install in your house,” Gatens said, adding that it’s significantly smaller and lighter than what astronauts are used to in space.
“It also uses fewer wipes and what we call supplies, things we need to replenish. It’s more ergonomic and works better for women.”
Peter Breslow and Hadeel Al-Shalchi produced and edited the audio version of this story.