Dream of sleeping as you hover midair? Far away from Earth Many dream of becoming astronauts, children and adults both. But aside from the tempting idea of hovering and weightlessness, reality is a bit different. Many difficulties arise during space missions, which turn the stay in the shuttle to particularly challenging
Itay Itamar and Jhonathan Maroz
Imagine waking up in the morning, hovering several centimeters above the ground. Instead of washing your face in the sink, you shoot water on a sponge with a gun. You don’t eat your cereal in a bowl. Instead, you fish bits out of the air. Sound like a dream? For astronauts who travel for many kilometers out of the atmosphere, this is reality.
How Do You Live in Space?
The reason for most of the troubles is the circumstances in space, outside of the Earth’s safe atmosphere. There is no air for breathing, the temperature varies from freezing cold (-120 degrees Celsius) to burning hot (150 degrees Celsius). Rock fragments travel in the space in high speeds, the environment has several kinds of dangerous radiation and of course, the lack of gravity doesn’t help.
Even so, throughout the years there have been many developments that ease the burden of a person living in space, and allow him or her to operate even under these problematic circumstances.
First of all, the shuttles themselves solve a significant number of these problems. The circumstances inside the spaceship are relatively similar to those on earth, and temperature and air pressure are kept familiar. Special parts of the shuttle protect its people from radiation. When the astronauts exit the shuttle, they wear a spacesuit that helps them keep those comfortable surroundings. It provides them with air, protects them from radiation and they can survive because of it.
How Do You Eat in Space?
Most astronauts suffer for the first few days from “Space-Sickness” similarly to seasickness, that is caused by a lack of coordination between what the eyes see and what the body’s balance systems perceives.
In a small, crowded space like a space shuttle, it may be even more important than usual to maintain basic hygiene. In order to wash hands, you must use a special pressure gun, which shoots water on a sponge. This is done in order to prevent water drops from traveling freely in space. Additionally, showers must be conducted in pressure-sealed stalls.
In order to eat, for example, the first astronauts were equipped with pills and food carriers, which provided the vitamins and nourishment critical to the human body. Gradually, the variety of food offered to astronauts was expanded and these days, they eat a variety of entirely regular food. But then another problem was introduced: It is not easy to eat and drink under zero-gravity circumstances. Drinking is done by using straws with one-sided valves, so the liquid doesn’t escape the cans and travel around the shuttle, what could cause an electricity shortage or another issue if the liquid reaches the shuttle’s systems. The food is covered in aluminum foil and served on magnetic trays, so that it stays in place and doesn’t fly around.
How Do You Sleep in Space?
And that’s not all: Life in space poses health risks for the astronauts. The lack of gravity causes deterioration in muscle and bone density. On planet Earth, the muscles are used as opposing powers to gravity, but in cases of zero-gravity, we don’t need to use them and they become weak. There have already been cases in which the muscles and bones of astronauts returning from space could not sustain the sudden rise in body weight.
At the end of an arduous day away from Earth, when all the astronauts want to do is sleep, they reach yet another problem. Indeed, they can fall asleep simply by closing their eyes and hovering, but the astronauts who prefer to sleep the regular way are forced to slip into sleeping bags that are tied to beds with belts.