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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Can You Get A Good Nights Sleep In Outer Space?

Last month, Chris Hatfield,  who is a Canadian, finished his six month stint at the International Space Station. Unlike most who have completed this mission, he was much different. In a social way,  he connected with people on the earth and more specifically kids. He also wrote and performed songs and conducted seminars. 


He also has talked extensively about the effects of being in space. Firstly, there is no gravity, so when you are reintroduced back to earth you have to get used to that again. Would seem simple enough, but it isn't. 

His reflections on gravity:

"I was capable of walking right away (on his return to Earth) although I would have staggered badly because my body had forgotten what to do with the acceleration of gravity coming down through your body. It's very dizzying, like coming off a ride where you have been twisting and spinning the whole time and walk right away. You might be able to do it but you're going to stagger a lot. My body had forgotten how to push the blood up to my head, and just like some mornings when you stand up and feel woozy, you're dizzy for a sec. Well, I felt woozy and dizzy for about 2 weeks....Just the straight forgetfulness of what gravity feels like."

There is also a loss of bone density. This happens to all of us as we grow older, but it is accelerated in space. Hadfield lost 1% a month, so in the five or six months he was there, he lost 5% of his bone density. That is very significant. 
Part of the reason he possibly sacrificed his personal well being, and was willing to do that, was his love for science and learning how to make things better for the next generation of space explorers.

In a CBC Radio interview yesterday, Hatfield discussed why he had an everyday exercise routine while in space. 

"That's very important, for long duration space flight. For travelling. It's like the early sailors. We are trying to understand scurvy and all the other things that effect you when you are away from land. You have to learn how to fight these things. And we're learning. And we've stopped muscle wasting, and we've decreased the amount of bone loss. But there's still something to consider and it definitely left me in better shape coming back to earth than if I hadn't done anything for the 5 months."

http://www.cbc.ca/player/Radio/The+Current/ID/2389797979/ 

I think all of us wonder what it would be like one day to live on the moon, or really anywhere in outer space.
So, I have questions. I always have questions. This time is no different.
What about the everyday things we do, and take for granted on Earth?


And I don't mean "the papers want to know which shirts you wear" like David Bowie asked in the famous song. The nuts and bolts of daily living on Earth. What are those things like in space.

What's it like to sleep?

The obvious thing about sleeping in space is that the gravity we take for granted on earth does not exist in space. How does that change the experience?
Basically, everything needs to be strapped down, or tethered, including the person and a pillow. Otherwise, they will be free floating.

http://www.howstuffworks.com/sleep-in-space.htm


After a busy day of exercising, spacewalking and research, the least an astronaut could ask for is a good night's sleep. But even the idea of "night" changes onboard a space shuttle, when an orbiter zooms around the Earth several times a day. And with the effects of microgravity and weightlessness, even the quality of sleep in space is different from that on Earth.
What's it like for astronauts to sleep in space? Do they just float around without anything to hold them down, or are they attached to something? Is it difficult to sleep in space, or do the effects of low gravity actually make it easier?
Pillows, of course, need to be strapped to astronauts' heads during sleep so they don't float away. Adjusting to sleep in space takes a long time for astronauts. After thousands of years of evolution on Earth, our bodies and brains are used to circadian rhythms, the 24-hour cycle of waking and sleeping.
For one, the International Space Station usually sees the sun "rise" once every 90 minutes -- that's about 16 sunsets every day. To counteract this, ISS administrators set astronauts' schedules on a 24-hour, Earth-based timetable to keep their activity as grounded as possible.
To avoid any distracting light and heat from the sun, astronauts will cover up any windows they're near. The personal sleeping compartments in the Zvezda module all have windows, so blocking out the sun is important. 
Despite taking sleeping pills, astronauts still get less sleep than they do on Earth. Although their schedules reflect an 8 to 8.5-hour period of sleep, they usually report receiving only 6 hours a night.

What's it like to go to the bathroom?

http://science.howstuffworks.com/bathroom-in-space.htm

The toilet consists of a commode that holds solid wastes and a urinal for liquid wastes. A funnel that fits over the genital area allows both men and women to urinate standing up, although they also have the option of sitting down.
To ensure that the waste also doesn't float around, the toilet uses flowing air instead of water to flush the toilet. The air pulls the waste away from the astronaut's body and flushes it away. After the air is filtered to remove bacteria and odors, it's returned to the living cabin.
 Going to the bathroom becomes even more challenging when astronauts take a walk outside their spacecraft. Because they can't simply drop their space suit and go, astronauts typically use a super absorbent adult diaper. These diapers are able to hold up to a quart of liquid. Astronauts use adult diapers during take-offs and landings as well. After the spacewalk, the astronauts remove the diapers and dispose them in a storage area in the craft.

What's it like to have sex?

Which raises the question: Would space sex be any good? Recent research suggests it would not. For one thing, zero gravity can induce nausea—a less-than-promising sign for would-be lovers. Astronauts also perspire a lot in flight, meaning sex without gravity would likely be hot, wet, and surrounded by small droplets of sweat. In addition, people normally experience lower blood pressure in space, which means reduced blood flow, which means … well, you know what that means.  
So far, as I understand it, nobody has actually tried, although there have been whispers that a few did when the cameras were not watching them. But there is no sex tape out there. Not yet anyway. The space sex mystery remains unanswered so far. 


What if you have a heart attack? 

I did an extensive search and nobody has asked, and therefore answered this question before. So, I guess you should just probably not have one. 
 

When you call home, does your family get hit with outrageous long distance charges?

I didn't find an answer to that question. Maybe next time. You can be sure of this though. If the big phone companies could get away with charging you large roaming fees in Space, they will. 

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