Maximum Absorbency Garment

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Drawing of a Maximum Absorbency Garment

A Maximum Absorbency Garment (MAG) is an adult-sized diaper with extra absorption material that NASA astronauts wear during liftoff, landing, and extra-vehicular activity (EVA) to absorb urine and feces.[1][2][3][4] It is worn by both male and female astronauts.[2] Astronauts can urinate into the MAG, and usually wait to defecate when they return to the spacecraft.[5] However, the MAG is rarely used for this purpose, since the astronauts use the facilities of the station before EVA and also time the consumption of the in-suit water.[2] Nonetheless, the garment provides peace of mind for the astronauts.[2]

The MAG was developed because astronauts cannot remove their space suits during long operations, such as spacewalks that usually last for several hours.[6][7] Generally, three MAGs were given during space shuttle missions, one for launch, reentry, and an extra for spacewalking or for a second reentry attempt.[5][8] Astronauts drink about 2 L (2.1 US qt) of salty water before reentry since less fluid is retained in zero G.[9] Without the extra fluids, the astronauts might faint in Earth's gravity, further highlighting the potential necessity of the MAGs.[9] It is worn underneath the Liquid Cooling and Ventilation Garment (LCVG).[7]


Disposable Absorption Containment Trunk (DACT)

During the Apollo era, astronauts used urine and fecal containment systems worn under spandex trunks.[10][5] The fecal containment device (FCD) was a bag attached directly to the body with an adhesive seal,[11] and the urine collection device (UCD) had a condom-like sheath attached to a tube and pouch.[8][10] Women joined the astronaut corps in 1978 and required devices with similar functions.[11] However, the early attempts to design feminized versions of the male devices were unsuccessful.[11] In the 1980s, NASA designed space diapers which were called Disposable Absorption Containment Trunks (DACTs).[5] These addressed the women's needs since it was comfortable, manageable, and resistant to leaks.[11] These diapers were first used in 1983, during the first Challenger mission.[5]

Disposable underwear, first introduced in the 1960s as baby's diapers then in 1980 for adult incontinence, appealed to NASA as a more practical option.[11] In 1988, the Maximum Absorbency Garment replaced the DACT for female astronauts.[12] NASA created the name Maximum Absorbency Garment to avoid using trade names.[11] Male astronauts then adapted the MAG as well.[11] In the 1990s, NASA ordered 3,200 of the diapers of the brand name Absorbencies, manufactured by a company that has folded.[8] In 2007, about a third of the supply remained.[8]


The MAGs are pulled up like shorts.[5] A powdery chemical absorbent called sodium polyacrylate is incorporated into the fabric of the garment.[5][8][13][9] Sodium polyacrylate can absorb around 300 times its weight in distilled water.[5][13] Assuming the astronaut urinates, the diaper would only need to be changed every eight to ten hours.[5] The MAG can hold a maximum of 2 L (2.1 US qt) of urine, blood, and/or feces.[1][14] The MAG absorbs the liquid and pulls it away from the skin.[5]

Media attention[edit]

These garments gained attention in February 2007, when astronaut Lisa Nowak drove 1,450 km (901 mi) to attack Air Force officer Colleen Shipman out of jealousy for her former lover.[5][8][15] It was stated in a police report that Nowak said she used the diapers to avoid pit stops during her journey.[15] However, Nowak denied these claims and testified that she did not wear these diapers during her trip.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Michael Barratt; Sam L. Pool (2008). Principles of Clinical Medicine for Space Flight. Springer. p. 384. ISBN 978-0-387-98842-9. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d Kenneth S. Thomas; Harold J. McMann (2006). US spacesuits. Birkhäuser. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-387-27919-0. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
  3. ^ Kish, A.L.; Hummerick, M.; Roberts, M.S.; Garland, J.L.; Maxwell, S.; Mills, A.L. (2002). "Biostability and microbiological analysis of Shuttle crew refuse" (PDF). SAE Technical Paper #2002-01-2356. Society of Automotive Engineers, Inc. Retrieved 11 June 2011.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  4. ^ Mary Roach (August 1, 1998). "Two Men in a Tub". DISCOVER. Kalmbach Publishing Co. Retrieved June 11, 2011.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Alexandra Gekas (February 19, 2007). "What's The Deal With The Diapers?". Newsweek. The Newsweek/Daily Beast Company LLC. Retrieved June 11, 2011.
  6. ^ "Shuttle EMU End Items". Archived from the original on 3 June 2011. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
  7. ^ a b "Factfile: Walking in space". BBC. 26 October 2007. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Roy Rivenburg (February 9, 2007). "NASA diapers become topic No. 1". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 11, 2011.
  9. ^ a b c Jeremy Manier (February 11, 2007). "In space, no one can hear you pee". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved June 11, 2011.
  10. ^ a b Mary Roach (2 August 2010). Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 181. ISBN 978-0-393-06847-4. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Martin J. Collins (15 March 2007). After Sputnik: 50 years of the Space Age. HarperCollins. p. 196. ISBN 978-0-06-089781-9. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
  12. ^ Gregory Vogt (1 March 2010). Is There Life on Other Planets?: And Other Questions about Space. Lerner Publications. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-8225-9082-8. Retrieved 12 June 2011.
  13. ^ a b Jan W. Gooch (23 August 2010). Biocompatible Polymeric Materials and Tourniquets for Wounds. Springer. p. 35. ISBN 978-1-4419-5583-8. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
  14. ^ Jennings, R.; Baker, E. (2000). "Gynecological and reproductive issues for women in space: A review". Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey. 55 (2): 109–116. doi:10.1097/00006254-200002000-00025. PMID 10674254.
  15. ^ a b c Eric M. Strauss (February 17, 2011). "Did Astronaut Lisa Nowak, Love Triangle Attacker, Wear Diaper?". ABC News Internet Ventures. Retrieved June 11, 2011.