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Astronaut's Video Reveals Secret of Zero-G Fingernail Clipping

Chris Hadfield cutting fingernails
In a video released by the Canadian Space Agency and NASA, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield explains how he cuts his fingernails on board the International Space Station. (Image credit: CSA / NASA)

Life in space isn't easy. Even basic hygiene, like clipping your fingernails, is a cosmic challenge without gravity, one astronaut says.

A new video by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield shows exactly how complicated (and a little gross) it is to cut your nails in the weightless environment of space. Hadfield currently lives on the International Space Station, where astronauts are forced to devise inventive ways for dealing with basic bodily needs that many folks may take for granted on Earth.

"Now, if I just cut my fingernails here, fingernail bits are going to fly everywhere," Hadfield explained in the zero gravity nail-clipping video as he floated about inside the space station. "They won't fall to the ground. You can't sweep them up. They'll float everywhere. They get in your eyes, people breathe them. Not good. Got to figure out a plan."

Hadfield's solution is to position his hand over an air duct where air is pulled in and filtered throughout the station. The nail clippings get sucked into the duct's mesh filter, making cleaning up relatively simple.

"So, there we go," Hadfield said. "Nails are ready for guitar playing. I'm going to vacuum this [the air duct] later in the week. It'll all clean up just fine."

There are many other ways astronauts tackle daily life without the pull of gravity. They attach strips of Velcro to all of their belongings since anything that isn't tied down can float away and get lost somewhere inside the International Space Station, which has the same habitable space as a five-bedroom house.

The astronauts share hair-cutting duty with their crewmates, using a vacuum to clean up clippings after each snip. A complicated procedure using hoses and airflow allows astronauts go to the bathroom in space . There are two toilets for the six astronauts living on the space station today.

Hadfield is a flight engineer representing the Canadian Space Agency on the station's Expedition 34/35 crew. Two American astronauts and three Russian cosmonauts round out the team. In March, Hadfield will take command of the station's Expedition 35 crew, to become Canada's first space station commander.

Hadfield has already developed a reputation for snapping amazing photos of Earth from space, writing and performing songs in space on the guitar, and Tweeting with celebrities like William Shatner, "Star Trek's" famed Captain Kirk, since arriving on the station last month.

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Miriam Kramer
Miriam Kramer joined Space.com as a staff writer in December 2012. Since then, she has floated in weightlessness on a zero-gravity flight, felt the pull of 4-Gs in a trainer aircraft and watched rockets soar into space from Florida and Virginia. She also serves as Space.com's lead space entertainment reporter, and enjoys all aspects of space news, astronomy and commercial spaceflight.  Miriam has also presented space stories during live interviews with Fox News and other TV and radio outlets. She originally hails from Knoxville, Tennessee where she and her family would take trips to dark spots on the outskirts of town to watch meteor showers every year. She loves to travel and one day hopes to see the northern lights in person. You can follow Miriam on Twitter and Google+.