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Whilst not an issue on the short-duration Mercury flights, personal hygiene became important on the longer-duration Gemini flights. The personal hygiene kits on the Gemini and Apollo missions included oral hygiene items, razors and shaving cream, and combs. These everyday items show the human side of the space program and flown examples can fetch significant sums at auction.




Oral Hygiene - Toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental gum etc.

On the earliest long duration flights, the issue of dental hygiene was dealt with using a combination of dry brushing and dental gum. NASA then developed a foamless ingestible toothpaste (marketed as NASAdent) which was in use by the time of the Apollo 10 mission.

Top: John Young's Gemini 10 Py-co-pay toothbrush
Bottom: Mike Collins' Apollo 11 Lactona toothbrush

Although there is no record of which brand of toothbrush was flown on which mission, examples sold at auction seem to indicate a progression through three different brands over time :

  • Py-co-pay toothbrushes manufactured by the Block Drug Co., NJ, were used by Gordon Cooper on the final Mercury flight, by the crew of Gemini 10, and were to be used on Apollo 1.[1]

  • S-19 Lactona Tooth Tip toothbrushes were used by the crews of Apollo 10 and Apollo 11

  • A PRO Double Duty toothbrush was used by Apollo 15 CMP Al Worden

  • Translucent Oral B-40 toothbrushes were used by Apollo 13 CMP Jack Swigert, by Apollo 15 LMP Jim Irwin and by the crews of Apollo 16, 17 and Skylab I.

For obvious reasons, each crewmember used a different colored toothbrush, with the following color-coding being used on the Apollo missions : red/orange for the Commander, blue for the Lunar Module Pilot, and white for the Command Module Pilot.

This is the same color coding scheme that was used to identify the meals (and some other items) carried on the Apollo missions, with different colored velcro squares attached for each crew member.

Whilst the Apollo Stowage Lists make no mention of the oral hygiene equipment carried by the crews, the Apollo 11 Press Kit states "Packaged with the food are a toothbrush and a two-ounce tube of toothpaste for each crewman." A later entry in the same Press Kit details an 'Oral Hygiene Kit' containing 3 toothbrushes, 1 edible toothpaste and 1 dental floss.

The single toothpaste tube mentioned here contradicts the earlier statement regarding one tube of toothpaste for each crewman, but it seems that in fact only one tube was provided in total as the Apollo 15 crew debriefing mentions that Al Worden was left with the only tube of toothpaste on that mission so none was taken to the lunar surface. Scott apparently still took his toothbrush to the surface but Irwin did not bother (although his toothbrush was listed as LM-flown in the Odyssey 1994 sale).

On the Apollo 16 technical debriefing mentioned one problem with the toothpaste, which was that having been packed in 14 psi (regular sea-level atmospheric air pressure) the toothpaste had a tendancy to pour out of the tube as soon as it was opened. As Ken Mattingly put it, "The first time I opened it we could have brushed the teeth on an elephant".

FLOWN availability - A number of flown toothbrushes have been sold by the astronauts over the years with the most famous example probably being Buzz Aldrin's Apollo 11 lunar-flown Lactona toothbrush which sold for $18,400 in 2004. The only examples of flown toothpaste or dental floss I've seen offered for sale were Conrad's from Apollo 12, offered at an early Odyssey auction.

Unflown availability - The toothbrushes used by NASA were unmodified commercial versions without any NASA part or serial number stamps thus NASA examples for evaluation or training use would be identifiable only by their packaging. Vintage non-NASA examples are probably relatively easy to acquire.


Shaving Utensils - Razors and shaving cream

Mike Collins' Apollo 11 razor & shaving cream, part of the NASM collection

The first long duration Gemini spaceflights brought the issue of shaving in space to the fore. The main concern was to ensure that loose whiskers would not end up floating into critical flight instrumentation, but early experiments with electric shavers fitted with simple vacuum attachments were a failure.

Still frame from Apollo 11 16mm onboard film showing
Mike Collins shaving with a Gillette Techmatic razor

On Gemini through Apollo, the crews were issued with Gillette Techmatic safety razors but they apparently went unused until the flight of Apollo 10.

Despite the original concerns it was found that using brushless shaving cream and safety razors there was actually no problem with loose whiskers. The process of shaving was still far from easy - most crews reported that the razors quickly became clogged with used shaving cream and whiskers and were almost impossible to clean out in the absence of running water.

The brushless shaving creams used by the astronauts were regular commercial products and the crews were apparently free to choose the brand they wanted to carry with them on a particular flight.

The Apollo Stowage Lists make no mention of the shaving equipment carried by the crews, but we do know that Apollo 11 Command Module Pilot Mike Collins used Old Spice brushless shaving cream on that flight as it is now part of the Smithsonian collection. We also know that a tube of K-34 Gillette brushless shave cream was used by the crew of Apollo 12, as this was given by them to Support Crew member Paul Weitz as a momento after the flight. On Apollo 13 we know that they used a shaving cream by Mennen, as this is mentioned in the technical debriefing.

Although safety razors were found to work reasonably well in a weightless environment the evaluation of mechanical razors for use in space continued. These efforts led to the adoption of a wind-up mechanical design made from acrylic which was used for the first time on Apollo 14 with reasonable success.

On Apollo 16 Ken Mattingly used a mechanical razor and found it worked well if used frequently. If used on two day old stubble however, he reported that it felt like the whiskers were being pulled out rather than cut. His crewmates apparently used Wilkinson safety razors when they had to shave, but found the same problem with clogging blades as earlier crews.

Despite the difficulties, which led many astronauts to let their beards grow for at least part of the missions, most reported that it felt very refreshing when they did manage to shave.

FLOWN availability - The only Apollo-flown Gilette Techmatic razor I've seen sold to-date is the Apollo 12 example in the recent Heritage Space Auction.

Unflown availability - The razors used by NASA were unmodified commercial models without any NASA part or serial number stamps. Vintage Gillette Techmatic razors identical to those used on the Apollo missions are readily available on eBay for a few dollars. A prototype wind-up mechanical razor from the collection of Walt Cunningham is being offered in the upcoming Heritage Space Auction.


Combs

Charlie Duke's Apollo 16 flown comb

The Apollo Stowage Lists make no mention of the combs carried by the crews, but it seems likely that most, if not all of the crew members did carry them.

We know from examples sold at auction that on the Apollo 7 and Apollo 12 missions the astronauts carried 5" long aluminum combs by Goody and that on Apollo 16, the astronauts carried 5 1/8" metal combs by Swedish Crown.

FLOWN availability - Several combs flown on the Apollo missions have come to market, as shown in the Annex below.

Unflown availability - The combs used by NASA astronauts were regular commercial models so unflown examples are unlikely to be of any great interest.


Annex A: Flown toothbrushes & dental floss sold at auction or identified in private or museum collections

MissionAstronautStatusBrandColorSold viaSale DateLot no.PriceReference / Notes
MA9CooperFLOWNPy-co-payblueSwannApr 2 200531$2,990Unsold?
GT10YoungFLOWNPy-co-payivoryHeritageApr 1 200941102Group LotAuction listing (group lot) 
RRAuctionNov 21 2013275$1,986Auction listing 
AS1UNFLOWNPy-co-payivoryRegency-SuperiorOct 3 201394$417Sold with blue ;
Auction listing (group lot) 
AS1UNFLOWNPy-co-payblueRegency-SuperiorOct 3 201394$417Sold with ivory ;
Auction listing (group lot) 
AS9SchweickartFLOWNLactonablueHeritageNov 30 201140070$837Auction listing 
AS10CernanFLOWNLactonablueSwannGroup LotAuction listing (group lot) 
AS10YoungFLOWNLactonaivoryHeritageApr 1 200941109Group LotAuction listing (group lot) 
eBayMay 18 2011n/aGroup LotAuction listing (group lot) 
AS11AldrinFLOWNLactonablueSwannMar 27 2004150$18,400
HeritageApr 18 201340113$22,705Auction listing 
AS11CollinsFLOWNLactonaivoryPart of Smithsonian collection, NASMNASM collection 
AS12ConradLM FLOWNOdyssey1994214$489With toothpaste
AS13SwigertFLOWNOral B-40transparentNate D SandersMay 29 20145911793.75Auction listing 
AS15IrwinLM FLOWNOral B-40Odyssey1994231$633
AS15WordenFLOWNPROwhite/blueSuperiorFeb 25 1995551$2,990
AS16YoungFLOWNOral B-40orangeHeritageApr 1 200941124$5,079Auction listing 
AS16DukeLM FLOWNbluePeachstateAuction listing 
AS17CernanFLOWNOral B-40orangeOn-loan to 2009 Purdue exhibitionPurdue exhibition 
SLIWeitzFLOWNOral B-40SwannApr 2 2005275$863
SLIILousmaFLOWNOral B-40blueHeritageJun 3 2011TBD$1,434Auction listing 


Annex B: Flown shaving utensils sold at auction or identified in private or museum collections

MissionAstronautStatusItemBrandSold viaLot no.Sale DatePriceReference / Notes
AS11CollinsCM FLOWNSafety RazorGillette TechmaticPart of Smithsonian collection, NASMNASM collection 
AS11CollinsCM FLOWNShaving creamOld Spice
AS12UnknownFLOWNSafety RazorGillette TechmaticHeritage41097Oct 7 2009$2,629Auction listing 
AS12UnknownFLOWNShaving creamK-34 Gillette
n/an/aPrototypeMechanical RazorunknownHeritage41177Oct 7 2009TBDAuction Listing 


Annex C: Flown combs sold at auction or identified in private or museum collections

MissionAstronautStatusItemBrandSold viaSale DateLot no.PriceReference / Notes
AS7SchirraCM FLOWNCombGoodyBonhamsSpring 2009133$1,464
AS12GordonCM FLOWNCombGoodyAuroraApr 24 2004545UnsoldAuction listing 
AuroraOct 2 2004395$2,232
HeritageApr 18 201340128$3,585Auction listing 
AS16DukeLM FLOWNCombSwedish CrownHeritageMar 26 200858054$5,138Auction Listing   Private collection  


Annex D: Other flown personal hygiene items sold at auction or identified in private or museum collections

MissionAstronautStatusItemBrandSold viaLot no.Sale DatePriceReference / Notes
AS12ConradCM FLOWNDental flossOdyssey2131994Unsold
SLIILousmaFLOWNSoapHeritage41210Jun 3 2011$777Auction listing 
Footnotes :

[1] A pair of Py-co-pay toothbrushes sold at Regency-Superior Fall 2013 auction, October 3, 2013 ( lot 94) were in NASA packaging with part no. 14-0115, bearing inspection stamps of 1-17-67. The date implies they were prepared for the Apollo 1 mission, possibly as flight spares.

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