The Challenges Of Creating Artisanal Soaps On Board The International Space Station

By: Anders Yates

For the last eight months, Commander Ian Finch has been living and working as a NASA astronaut on board the International Space Station. Astral Magazine caught up with him via satellite to find out about life on board the research vessel.

Astral Magazine: Everybody knows that life on board the International Space Station is full of research and maintenance and exercises, but what our readers have been wondering is: what are the biggest challenges to creating your own artisanal soaps while in space?

Commander Ian Finch: Really it comes down to keeping up with demand. When you’re up here it’s not as if you can just go to Lush and pick up whatever aroma you’re looking for, so there really is a constant need for this. We’d love it if this were something NASA could send us during their regular supply runs, but it’s just too personalized and case-based of a process. By the time a fresh delivery arrives, your mood, your personal body chemistry, all your aromatic needs will have subtly changed, so it’s up to me to make artisanal soaps for the whole station, and it’s a lot of work, both physical and emotional. It’s the same with the dreamcatchers.

AM: The dreamcatchers?

CIF: They obviously don’t function on the same gravitational principles as the ones you hang over your bed down on earth, but the spiritual dream-catching aspects are virtually identical. The point is, I’ve had to make those from scratch for each of my fellow crew-members. While I don’t really have any indigenous heritage to fall back on here, I did have a summer job in a tourist gift shop in Yellowstone once, so I think I know what I’m talking about. Everybody on board the station has reported better sleep since we set up the catchers. Renatta, our Science Officer, was even able to communicate with her cats in one dream, which is of course tremendously important in order to ensure a strong continued relationship with them upon returning to Earth.

AM: How is the feng shui on the ISS?

CIF: Well, when I arrived it was terrible, but the Russian commander I was taking over from was a Capricorn, so no surprise there. For starters I had to add vibrant colors to the airlock to welcome good energy in, but you can’t exactly repaint up there, so we had to cut up all of our emergency fire blankets to create this great orange design. And we had to do all that without NASA’s help.

AM: Is NASA out of touch with the needs of its astronauts?

CIF: Not exactly, but at the same time it’s impossible to truly understand what you really NEED in space without actually being there. For instance, I could TELL people on the ground about the guided trance state we experienced last night where Alexei brought us all to a closer place of understanding with both our current and past lives, but you wouldn’t necessarily UNDERSTAND how hard it is to achieve that without candles due to restrictions on open flame. The mood flows from the lighting and into the chakras, and fluorescents are just so harsh.

AM: My skin can barely cope with an hour of fluorescent lighting. I couldn’t imagine the amount of time you’re forced to live with it.

CIF: It’s just one of the ways being in space forces you to toughen up.

AM: Of course. That being said, do you feel as if your research tasks suffer as a result of some of your needs not being met on board the space station?

CIF: We’re all very highly trained professionals up here, so we’re quite capable of opening our third eye without the aid of incense, for example. It’s all just a matter of making the proper adjustments. With regards to our research activities, I will say that there are times when my confidence in my work does waver given the fact that I’m so far away from Gaia’s energies up here. Of course, when I ask her for strength during a particularly precise recalibration of our Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, she has yet to fail me.

AM: Gaia is the mother of all things.

CIF: May her love be eternal.

AM: All of us down here wish you a peaceful journey.

CIF: Peaceful journey to all the people of Turtle Island and beyond.



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