By Christine Andas
July 09, 2021
Tatler has the answers to some interesting questions about everyday life in space so you can finally sleep in peace tonight
It has been years since the first expedition to space changed the course of humanity. Lately, artists, billionaires and normal people like you and I have been thinking of travelling to space. We might think humans floating in space is already fascinating as it is. But wait ’til you discover nine of these shocking facts about everyday life in space:
Water in space is very minimal, which makes it impossible to wash clothes. However, that just might change in 2022 as Tide recently partnered with NASA in a Space Act Agreement to explore the possibilities of efficiently cleaning astronauts’ clothing in space. Soon, astronauts will be able to do laundry using a fully degradable detergent even in environments with limited resources. Finally, 160 pounds of clothing won’t have to be sent to the ISS all the time. This is also exciting news for us non-astronauts as this innovation might also unlock sustainable solutions for people on earth.
Astronauts use the same things when showering: water and cleaning products. However, it gets a bit challenging when your hair’s floating around and the water behaves like Jell-O. Astronauts will have to rub the water on their skin or hair to get it wet. Otherwise, the water would be floating around, mostly in the shape of a sphere, as there’s no gravity to force it down nor change its shape.
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Apparently, hot sauce is a favourite among astronauts who have been in space. The reason being space makes them lose their sense of smell and affects their taste buds. When astronauts arrive in space the first time, the fluid in their body—which was once pulled to the legs on earth–is distributed equally in the body which makes their faces appear puffy. It almost feels like a “heavy cold” which then reduces their sense of smell and affects their taste buds. Fortunately, this only happens for a short period of time. Moreover, living in such a confined space like the ISS can also affect the sense of smell as different kinds of odour competes with the smell of food. This is why astronauts prefer food with a stronger kick. They’ll eat anything spicy, from hot red peppers to spicy brown mustard.
Whenever astronauts open up the hatch, they smell a lingering trace of odour. It seems space has a certain smell. Former CSA astronaut Chris Hadfield agrees that it does smell like gunpowder or burnt steak. But he also likens the smell to brimstone. Some also describe it as “…a rather pleasant metallic sensation”. Scott Kelly, a NASA astronaut, however, distinctly describes it as a mix of marshmallows, apples and cat food.
See also: 7 Photos From Space That Look Like Art
Astronauts are 2 inches taller while they’re floating around in space without gravity pushing down on their vertebrae. So in microgravity, their spine elongates and the vertebrae stretch out. Unfortunately, the human body changes when they return back home. After a few months, they return to their normal height.
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Because the ISS orbits our planet every 90 minutes, astronauts get to gaze at the sun rising 16 times a day. Thankfully, astronauts get to sleep in a crew cabin or sleep station—which only fits one person—where they rest in a sleeping bag that’s well-attached to keep them from floating around.
The vastness of outer space already tells you it’s going to be completely quiet once you’re floating around the cosmos. It’s amazingly quiet in space that even if you try to scream at the top of your lungs, no one will hear you. This is why NASA prepares their astronauts before they hop on board.
Inside the space station, however, you’ll be hearing air circulation fans and fluid coolant pumps in the background. There are times when astronauts have to wear earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones to drown out sounds during work day. Thankfully, their sleeping stations are also soundproof.
Interestingly, you can bring musical instruments like a guitar or even a keyboard to the space station. As long as you play these instruments in the spacecraft where air is present, you can make music with astronauts. In fact, there’s a rock band composed of astronauts.
As mentioned above, there is limited water in space. But a closed-loop system onboard the ISS allows astronauts to recycle almost all forms of wastewater like urine, sweat or moisture of their breath. But while this sustainable process might sound revolting, this recycled water turns out to be cleaner than the water we drink on earth.