Wanting to be an astronaut as a kid is like a rite of passage, we’ve all been there, right?
As a kid, it’s easy to see those videos of adults just floating around in space and wanting so badly to be one of them. But there’s a lot of things about living in space that aren’t as commonly talked about, some of which might make you change your mind -- or make you want to be an astronaut even more, depending on where you draw the line between fascinating and freaky.
Though some of the things that happen in space might be funky, I have no doubt that living on the International Space Station is also a lot of fun. Why else would there be so many astronauts lining up to do it?
Here are some of the most surprising facts about living in space:
There are plenty of food options
Sure, many of them are dried and may not exactly be the snacks we crave down on Earth but still, there are plenty of food items to choose from. NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan told usupulse.blogspot.com that each of the international partners involved in the ISS sends their astronauts up with their own food supplies, which can consist of dehydrated snacks and other thermo-stabilized and packaged food items that they can all share with each other. Sounds to me like the ISS is home to one never-ending Friendsgiving.
Water comes from weird places
While there’s plenty of food on the ISS, the water supply is limited, which forces astronauts to get creative in keeping their H2O supply stocked. Needless to say, water can come from some interesting places when you live in space. Of course, you have the water you leave Earth with but like everything in life, that won’t last forever and resupplies from the ground can get pretty pricey. To stay hydrated, astronauts on the ISS capture their wastewater, which can be urine, sweat or even just the moisture from their breath, then use the closed-loop system they have on board to filter out any impurities or contaminants from the water. Once it’s run through the filter, the water can be used for drinking, bathing, rehydrating food, etc. This might sound a little yucky but NASA says the recycled water on the ISS is actually cleaner than what most Earthlings drink.
You see killer sunrises and sunsets -- and lots of them
Do you think your sunset pic game is strong? The quality of sunsets and sunrises we see here on Earth might be impressive but let’s talk quantity. Our one each per day doesn’t compare to the 16 sunsets and sunrises astronauts on the ISS see in 24-hour period while whipping around Earth.
You sleep strapped to a wall -- if you can even sleep
Like many other parts of living in space, sleeping is weird. As you likely know, there’s very little gravity in space, also known as “microgravity,” which is the reason you see videos of astronauts and objects just floating around. It doesn’t seem like it would be very restful -- or safe -- to sleep while just floating around the ISS, so astronauts sleep in sleeping bags that are strapped to the walls of their respective sleep stations, as NASA astronaut Suni Williams shows off in the video above.
The sleep stations are phone-booth sized rooms that can also hold a computer, books, clothes and other items to make them feel more like home. Perhaps the sleeping bag on the wall situation wouldn’t bother you, however, random flashes of light that zap through your eyes might keep you up at night, as it has some astronauts on the ISS, according to Space.com. According to the website, those beams of light, which some astronauts have described as “fireworks” or “streaks,” are actually from cosmic rays, or high-energy particles that beam through the solar system, shooting through the orbiting outpost.
I don’t know about you guys but I had no clue this was a thing until I saw Netflix’s “Away,” a series about a group of astronauts heading to Mars. Spoiler alert: After months in space, one of the astronauts' vision had deteriorated, which was terrible considering he was responsible for most of the maintenance on board and couldn’t see to rebuild their water filtration system but I digress. Anyway, once I saw this, I immediately Googled: “Is space blindness a thing?” Turns out it is -- or vision impairment is, at least -- and it’s a real concern for NASA. Phys.org reported in 2016 that nearly two-thirds of astronauts have reported problems with their eyes after spending months aboard the ISS. According to NASA, signs of a condition that has become known as Space-Associated Neuro-Ocular Syndrome (SANS) appear in roughly 70% of crew members, but to what degree varies for each astronaut. What causes SANS? NASA says that’s still not exactly clear but research suggests it’s a number of factors: increased pressure in the head, overfilling of blood vessels, inflammation, elevated levels of carbon dioxide, radiation, genetics and B vitamin status. Researchers also believe the amount of time spent in space impacts an astronaut’s vision, since NASA health officials say they didn’t see signs of optic swelling in two-week shuttle missions and did in long-duration missions.
Taller, better, faster, stronger
I can’t exactly confirm the “better” or “faster” parts but I can confirm that you do grow taller while in space. According to NASA, astronauts grow up to 3% taller while living in microgravity because their spines elongate. To put it simply, NASA uses this analogy: “Imagine that the vertebrae in your back form a giant spring. Pushing down on the spring keeps it coiled tightly. When the force is released, the spring stretches out. In the same way, the spine elongates by up to 3% while humans travel in space.” Less gravity pushing down on the vertebrae makes it easier for them to stretch out, and they can up to 3 inches, according to NASA. Looking to put on a few inches -- vertically, I mean? Click here to calculate your space height. The “stronger” part is also true -- kinda. Because astronauts are in a weightless environment, they can easily lift hundreds of pounds in space, according to Business Insider. In the video above, astronaut Doug Wheelock squats 200 pounds, his own body weight, like it’s nothing using the Advanced Resistive Exercise, or ARED, weightlifting machine on the ISS.
Your feet shed in space and hurt when you get home
First of all, ew -- that sounds disgusting, but it makes a ton of sense. According to ScienceAlert.com, astronauts will actually lose a layer of skin on their feet because there’s so little contact between them and other surfaces. Think about it: You’re likely touching a lot of surfaces right now without even trying. You might be sitting in an office with your bum in a chair and your feet planted firmly on the ground. Because astronauts float everywhere in space instead of walking on the ground, they don’t even have to wear shoes. In the video above, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent nearly a year in space, said his feet were still sore more than two months after he’d returned to earth.
How many of these life-in-space facts did you know? Any interesting facts we missed? Share them with us in the comments.