When people first went to space, they went up there only for short trips to see what it was like. However, things have changed drastically with time, where astronauts can now live and work in space for weeks or even months. Do you ever wonder how they eat, sleep, work or go to the bathroom in space? Imagine food floating in the air and astronauts trying to catch them or your body floating inside a space shuttle while you are asleep. Sounds crazy, right? Well, things are quite different in reality. Let’s find out how.
You would be surprised to know that astronauts, like everyone else on Earth, eat three meals a day and other snacks at various times of the day. Meals are organised in the order in which astronauts are going to consume them, and stored in locker trays held by a net to prevent them from floating away. When it is time to eat, astronauts go into the galley area (it is the compartment of a ship, train, or aircraft where food is cooked and prepared), situated in a space shuttle’s mid-deck. There they add water to food and obtain dehydrated drinks from a rehydration station that can dispense both hot and cold water. Astronauts heat their food in a forced-air convection oven that’s kept between 160 and 170 degrees Fahrenheit (71 to 76 degrees celsius). It takes around 20 to 30 minutes to rehydrate and heat an average meal before consumption. An astronaut’s food and drinks are packaged using similar methods as we would do for long journeys, especially when the military stores food for long battles. Primarily, zip lock bags, retort pouches and cans are used as they are lightweight, compact in size and have airtight seals, which prevent both spoilage and spillage.
First food eaten by astronauts in space – In 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space and the first person ever to eat in space. Aboard Vostok 1 on April 12, 1961, Gagarin ate beef and liver paste from an aluminium tube by squeezing it into his mouth. He also had dessert, which included chocolate sauce that he consumed in the same way.
First baking in space- In December 2019, the first-ever chocolate cookies were baked in space. Astronauts used cookie dough supplied by the Hilton Hotel chain and it took two hours in a specially designed zero gravity oven!
After a really long and tiring day at work, nothing is better than a good night’s sleep, isn’t it? And just like on Earth, an astronaut in space too goes to bed at a certain time and sleeps for a specific amount of time before getting up and ready for work the next day.
Astronauts sleep in small sleeping compartments inside sleeping bags. Their bodies are strapped loosely to prevent them from floating around inside the space shuttle. In the near zero-gravity world of space, there are no “ups” or “downs”. The astronauts can thus sleep anywhere facing any direction. An astronaut typically sleeps for eight hours. However, in most cases, they will sleep for around six hours, since they often work long hours. Just like on Earth, during their sleep schedule, astronauts have reported having dreams and nightmares. Some have even reported snoring in space!
For astronauts in space, “doing their duty” is a bit more complicated than usual. In the zero-gravity world, any loose drops or dribbles could float out of the toilet. That’s not good for anyone on-board or even the equipment inside a space shuttle.
The original toilet for astronauts travelling to space was designed in the year 2000 for men and was difficult for women to use — you had to relieve yourself while standing up. To do their other business, astronauts had to use thigh straps to sit on the small toilet and to keep a tight seal between their bottoms and the toilet seat. This setup didn’t work really well and was difficult to clean.
So later in 2018, NASA spent about $23 million (Rs 172.17 crores approx) on a new and improved toilet, which was a specially designed vacuum toilet. The new bathrooms also have handholds and footholds so that astronauts don’t drift off in the middle of their business. In order to relieve themselves, astronauts can sit or stand and then hold a funnel and hose tightly against their skin so that nothing leaks out. To do other things, astronauts lift the toilet lid and sit on the seat — just like here on Earth. However, the space toilet begins suctioning as soon as the lid is lifted to prevent things from drifting away — and also to control the stink. The toilet seats are much smaller than the ones in your house, in order to make sure there’s a tight fit between the toilet seat and the astronauts’ behinds.
Do you think it is easy for astronauts to manage sleeping, eating and pooping in space? Tell us in the comments below. You might also be interested in reading about the famous firsts in space!
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