Living on a space station worth billions sure sounds attractive, but it requires a lot of getting used to! This extraordinary experience holds many mysteries, and one of the latest attempts to shed some light on the matter comes from Ron Garan, a NASA astronaut who wrote his own book, The Orbital Perspective.
First few hours in space or traveling to the International space station (you can find a great National Geographic documentary about the specifics thereof here) are filled with nausea, because once you are in the orbit the zero gravity kicks in. ISS is set 260 miles – 400 km above Earth. Even though astronauts train very hard in order to better adapt to zero gravity, they often say that it’s much easier to train for few hours a day than to live like that 24/7. Missions can last from a week up to six months, but because of the harsh conditions, astronauts usually opt for many short missions, in order to stay in better condition. Until 2015, Sergei Krikalev held a record in spending a total of over 803 days in space across six missions. This year he was overtook in his outer space adventures by Gennady Padalka, a 57 year old(!) that spent over 897 days in space across five missions.
Life on a Space Station
Many astronauts struggle with getting used to functioning in zero gravity for a longer time because you have to float carefully, bouncing yourself around with your fingertips in order not to break anything. Marsha Ivins, our household favorite said once that a human body goes through fantastic changes while in space – your stomach goes flat and you grow around 5 cm (2 inches)!
Ron Garan quotes in his book a passage on sleeping in the space station, and how damned hard it actually is. The problem is, you can’t lay your head in space, so what you do is basically mark your spot on the floor, ceiling, wall – it really doesn’t make a difference, and you attach your sleeping bag, strap your body and your head to the pillow, and if you don’t tuck your arms into bag, they float in front of you. Another problem is that while orbiting the Earth astronauts face 16 sunsets and sunrises for 24 hours, so they cover up windows, or wear black masks and call it a night.
Another struggle is food. Life on a space station will definitely do some good for your figure. You can’t eat fresh fruit and vegetables because there is no refrigeration, so they look forward to getting fresh supplies from ferries that transport food and people from Earth to theISS. Retired Canadian astronaut Chris Hatfield answered many questions about life in space and made a bunch of Youtube videos on how to make aspace burrito, or chocolate cake desserts. His view on space food is that it is tasty, usually packed as army MRE’s, but we question the tastiness until we get the chance to experience it first-hand! It’s mostly dehydrated, so you add water in it. Also because ISS is international, they have different food that comes from USA, Canada, Russia, Europe, and Japan. He has a favorite though; he thinks that Russian food is most natural in flavor, tastes like comfort food. They use a lot more spices than average people, so Tabasco is on the NASA’s menu, and is very popular among astronauts. One astronaut quoted her experience with Tabasco, saying how they used gallons of the stuff, given that food hardly tastes anything in zero G, and that it was super important how you applied the sauce, given that floating-zero-G Tabasco is a dangerous thing if not applied correctly.
Astronauts have a really busy schedule, every day they have to work out for two hours in order to stay in shape for spacewalks and coming home. They meet up for breakfast, lunch and dinner where they hang out, and in the meantime, they keep themselves busy. I am sure that it’s tough to live in a small chamber with 5 people for months, away from home, family and friends. But it sure is once at a lifetime opportunity to see our planet and human life from a very other perspective. A lot of astronauts had been thrilled with watching aurora borealis or other parts of Earth from space , but for me, the most amusing parts of life in space were how to eat, sleep, wash your hair or use the restroom (minus the part about the machines that turn pee to drinking water).