Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Life in Space – The Basics
“So, what’s it like?” Living in space is all at once wonderful, and a royal pain. During my first mission aboard Space Shuttle Columbia, I marveled at the sensation of freedom that came right after Main Engine Cut Off (MECO). I watched as tethered checklists floated gently back and forth, and it quickly became normal to release a camera lens in midair, as I removed the old one off of the camera to be replaced.
There was also a sense of dizziness, since the inner ear balance system wasn’t working so well. My head felt a little full, as if I were laying down on an incline, since there was no longer any gravity to pull fluids down to my extremities. In fact, the human body carries about two liters less water in space, than on the Earth.
But, it was amazing how quickly it became normal, just to fly head first down a hatchway, or to spin myself with a push off using just a few fingers. With a little practice, most astronauts get pretty graceful at flying through the spacecraft. Just don’t try it at home, back in gravity!
Large masses are easily moved around slowly, and it becomes second nature, to orient yourself using only your vision. However, what about all that other stuff?
For example, imagine how easy it is to lose something! Where did that pen go? Where is my thumb drive? Where is that photograph of my family? First place to check is the air filters. But, there are plenty of dead zones of air inside, and things can be lost for a few minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, or forever. If it’s critical, you had better keep it inside of a sealed bag, safely contained inside of a second, large mesh bag, tied off to a handrail.
What about eating in space? Hygiene? What is the coolest thing about being in space? What is the most difficult? Stay tuned, I’ll be writing about all of it.
Originally posted on Gizmodo, during the week of May 4, 2009