Science fiction shows present living in outer space and spaceships in somewhat of a luxurious environment. In reality living away from the full effects of Earth’s gravity and environment is much different.
Forty percent of all astronauts get space-adaption sickness (nausea, often debilitating). They can’t see well for the first few days because of eyeball changes. Chest, neck and their face get wider due to movement of fluid from the lower extremities upward. Excretion of excess fluid—up to 8-10 pounds on a ten day mission. Your back stretches, resulting in back pain for many astronauts. (U.S. Space Foundation, 1996)
Additional microgravity (weightlessness) effects include: Muscle tissue atrophies.
Cardio-vascular system loses efficiency.
Bones lose minerals.
In 28 days, there is a 17% calcium loss. Three to five percent of calcium is lost every month thereafter.
Endocrine system functions less efficiently—including salivary glands.
(U.S. Space Foundation, 1996)
To counteract some of the above effects, astronauts are required to exercise 4 hours per day on a ten day mission and 4-6 hours per day on a longer mission. Also, before landing back on Earth, astronauts must drink two quarts of water with salt tablets during their last orbit—and NASA checks. (Brown, 1996)
One question that most students want answered is, “how do astronauts go to the bathroom?” It takes approximately 45 minutes to go to the bathroom, do to set-up and clean-up. You have to be seat-belted in, with feet restraints. The toilet operates with air, instead of water, the waster then hits a fan and is dried out, collected and frozen in liquid nitrogen. Also, smear samples are taken, frozen in liquid nitrogen, and are checked out on the return home. If an astronaut is participating in a spacewalk, they either wear adult diapers or have a waste elimination tube that goes down to the knee. Astronauts use wipes instead of toilet paper. All types of waste produced by the astronauts is frozen in liquid nitrogen and brought back to Earth. (Brown, 1996)
Astronauts must be team players. They do not take showers. Personal hygiene can be a major source of contention between astronauts. There have been two big fights between astronauts—one on a Russian and one on a U.S. mission. All astronauts involved were asked to resign. (Brown, 1996)
Food for the astronauts is bought at a supermarket, then cooked and frozen. No carbonated beverages are allowed in space because no gas gets absorbed by the digestive system, instead it passes through. (Brown, 1996)
Astronauts are no longer quarantined after the mission, but their immune systems are not 100% for about 28 days. (Brown, 1996)
If you are orbiting the Earth, there are 16-18 sunrises and sunsets daily. Male and female cycles are “off.” A day in space usually consists of 22 hours—11 of work, 2 hours for personal hygiene and 4 hours for exercise. (Brown, 1996)
Lastly, if there is a problem in space, NASA has a personal rescue device. This is shaped like a 34 inch diameter ball, with 3-4 hours of life support and communications gear. (NASA, 1993)
If the above is not possible, then there is an agreement between Russia and the United States, not to attempt any further rescue. This is due to the following reasons: decomposition will happen in a spacecraft and when a body decomposes it gives off a lot of toxic gases. Also, for memorial reasons there is no retrieval. (Brown, 1996)