As a child, I was fascinated by The Jetsons. All the technology that they had going on was unbelievable; their spaceships, their houses, and their everyday items used to amaze me to no end. I used to wonder what would it be like to travel in your own space car! What would it be like to have a robot maid? What would it feel like to travel in space? Would I prefer to walk or float in a spaceship? Would I get to personalize it, or would I have to make do with whatever is given to me? There were so many things to wonder about (particularly as a child) when it comes to living in a spacecraft.
Haven’t you ever wished for an adventure in space, to live out all those incredible moments that astronauts get to experience? To literally have an out-of-this-world experience?
I suppose my first question would be, when a rocket takes off, what does the man sitting inside feel? In fact, he would feel a strain of about 2G’s (that’s twice the normal gravitational pull that we feel; normally, we feel 1G of force when we’re on the ground) at the moment of takeoff and increases as the rocket accelerates.
You would think that you would feel the rocket speed up, but you don’t. It’s just a visual impression that we misconstrue as experiencing speed. This is like when trees flash by us or air whips across our faces during a drive, the thrum of an engine, things like that. However, as the rocket motor shuts off, you wouldn’t feel anything at all; you won’t even be able to tell if you’re moving or not! All that you feel is a falling sensation… Welcome to zero gravity! However, you can be thankful that you’re strapped down to your seats, so you won’t have to deal with this sensation, at least not right away. Eventually, I’m sure you’d get used to it. Some astronauts spend years in space, and I’m sure they adapt to the new surroundings.
Now that you’ve made a successful trip to the space station, you’re ready to begin your daily routine – eat, poop, work, and sleep. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, not for the astronauts who actually have to go through that process. Let’s start with breathing, the most natural and unconscious thing we do as humans. Inhaling and exhaling. It’s a muscular contraction, so zero-g doesn’t affect it. However, when you exhale, air is pushed out of your lungs. On earth, the exhaled air is warmer than the surrounding air, so it will rise. In zero-g, that’s not the case: warm air and cold air will be equal and will weigh nothing. Without that rising of exhaled air, you’ll be inhaling the same air that you just exhaled. To get rid of this used air, you’ll forcibly have to blow it out. Fortunately, this problem can be corrected by installing air conditioners with a draft to keep the air moving.
Next is brushing your teeth. This is where things start to get difficult. Getting water into your mouth is easy by using a straw and the toothpaste will stick to your brush. The actual brushing process would also be pretty easy to achieve, but what would you do about the foam and water that you would normally spit out into the sink? If you just spit it out, it will simply splash off the wall and spread through the air. You’ll be left swimming in your own saliva. Until another novel solution is thought of, using a paper bag will have to do.
Want to try taking a bath? Well, a sponge bath is the only option. You’ll have to use a sponge or a wet towel to take care of your daily (weekly?) ablutions. You could also use a water-less shampoo that has no foam and would be rather convenient to use, but it wouldn’t be anything like a solid shower back home.
Eating in Space
For food, liquids would be consumed with the help of straws in closed boxes. Swallowing won’t be affected by zero-gravity, like breathing, since swallowing is a muscular contraction. The problem, however, would be getting solid food into your mouth, as spoons would be useless. You would have to eat freeze-dried meals to which you could add water or just heat and eat, probably with a fork if you can manage to spear the food before it floats away.
When nature comes calling, you’d have to strap yourself to the toilet to avoid floating off while doing your business. The toilet is actually only partitioned by a curtain, but don’t worry, any sounds from the toilet area won’t be heard outside. A spaceship is actually quite noisy due to the sounds from the air-conditioning, fan, motor, and the hundred other noises on a ship zooming through space. Your waste would then be sucked up using a vacuum machine, where it is vacuum-dried and kept in rubber bags until they can be disposed of on Earth. I know, it sounds gross, but life in space is hard!
It’s finally time for work! This should be quite a relief by now, since papers will stay put on clipboards and pens (ball-point only; fountain pens won’t work or will work too well and you’ll have ink floating everywhere) and pencils will have a small magnet on them to keep them attached to a metal desk. Tape recorders and radios will also work, but only if they are re-designed to not be affected by weightlessness.
What to Wear?
Would you have to wear special clothing when you’re inside the spaceship? You could wear regular clothes when you’re inside, just as you do at home on Earth. However, when you go outside the spaceship, you would have to wear special spacesuits that would allow you to survive in the freezing vacuum of space. These spacesuits have oxygen tanks attached and a built-in radio for communication. My question is… what would you do if your nose starts to itch?
Working out in Space
You’d think that you would be able to relax in zero-gravity and finally get a break from exercising, but that’s not true at all. Your bones and muscles would gradually become weak, as your body would not be offering any muscular support for weeks or months at a time. On earth, we constantly work out our muscles and bones against gravity, which gives us the support to stand and function. In space, due to a lack of gravitational force, this can have an adverse effect. Astronauts use treadmills and ergo-meters and exercise for at least two hours every day to stay in good shape.
Worried about what might happen if you get sick? Fortunately, there’s a first-aid kit available in the spaceship. You’ll have plenty of access to many medical instruments and medications to treat minor illnesses and injuries.
Sleeping at the ISS
*Yawn* Time for some much-needed sleep after a long and exhausting day. Goodni– Wait! Don’t nod off without tying yourself down securely. Your inhaling and exhaling will tend to make you move you in opposite directions, which will send you sailing around the room, bumping into walls or machinery. It’s always best to strap yourself to a bunk to stop yourself from any unexpected journeys while you sleep.
Eventually, you’ll get bored if you’re on an extended trip in space. To curb this boredom, you can carry a few books with you to read, or watch a few DVDs, listen to music, or talk to your families about once a week, just like how Matthew McConaughey did in Interstellar! The best way to pass the time, at least in my opinion, would be to enjoy the beautiful view from the shuttle window – truly the best seat in the cosmic house!
Even though astronauts have shared many of their opinions and experiences concerning space travel, including getting used to a zero-gravity environment, the freeze-dried food, the up-heaving of the digestive system, and all the other challenges that come with the job, but I’m sure that all of us would still love to know what it feels like to be inside a spaceship. And of course, who would ever get tired of that view?