International Space station is always occupied with at least 6-7 people from different space agencies. The main aim of going there is to perform scientific experiments in microgravity.
Gravity and Freefall
It’s a common misconception that there is no gravity where ISS orbits the earth. There is indeed a significant effect of earth’s gravity as ISS orbits the earth at just 400 km away.
The forward motion of ISS at 7.6 Km/sec around the earth causes the ISS to fall freely and all the forces on it are balanced, leaving absolutely no unbalanced force that act as downward pushing gravity.
Thus micro gravity on ISS is result of classical physics, not really of absence of gravity. But real or virtual, microgravity causes problems there for astronauts.
They do not walk on surface but float all the time. The low gravity causes some biological problems like bone weakness and bone de-mineralization.
On earth our entire weight is supported through our legs but in space, legs do not take the weight, so bones around the waist and lower, tend to become weak. Gravity plays an important role in flow of blood & water throughout the body, while in space with no gravity; blood usually flows upward, to the upper body and head.
This makes face of astronauts look puffy. Therefore astronauts are required to rest a lot during day to make up for the loss of water and blood as the brain is tricked into believing that the body has enough water because all the water flows toward the head. Cleanliness is another important task that astronauts must follow regularly.
Cleanliness and Hygiene
They need to clean themselves and be hygienic. Also while doing their chores they must conserve water and produce minimum waste. To clean their teeth they use edible toothpaste and use wet pipes to wash their face and body.
Zero Gravity Toilets
For body waste excretion, zero gravity toilets are built and they need millions to be built. Since there is no gravity, additional aid must be provided for easy removal of waste.
Zero gravity toilet consists of a long 2-3 meter vacuum suction tube that connects to an additional chamber with large suction fan. The waste is sucked through the system and later compressed for the disposal.
The liquid waste is stored and filtered, later used for recycling or sent to labs on earth for additional testing. To be healthy, eating is necessary and astronauts need around 3000 calories of nutrition per day.
Food For Astronauts
They do not have privilege to eat continental or Italian dishes like us. They consume packaged food sent from earth through spacecrafts.
Along with fresh fruits, dry fruits like nuts sent together with irradiated and processed food. Each participating country sends the food, medical supply to ISS. Generally Russia and USA contribute to the food section.
Bean paste, cooked Beef are packed & sterilised on earth, and then are sent with utmost protection to reach ISS. You may have watched the video of Hadfield making Taco on the station.
All the ingredients required were sent separately and Hadfield battling the zero gravity successfully prepared the Taco. Potatoes and sweet potatoes are most used eating material in space as they have high carbohydrate content and are easy to grow and transport.
Workout on Space Station
Now after eating, astronauts need to rest but most important chore of the day is to do exercise for being healthy and maintaining the body weight.
They need to workout at least 2 hours per day. Each astronaut spend their precious time in the gym without any day gap, as it is necessary. You do not want to fall sick up there.
Astronaut’s Leisure Time
Time left after performing daily routine work and scientific experiments, most of the astronauts spend their leisure time looking toward the earth, the big blue marble. Sunset and sunrise happens every 45 minutes.
There is silence, vastness and the moments we would also like to experience. In those hard surviving conditions, these small moments surely give them a bigger picture of reality to enjoy and motivate them to participate in this global endeavour.
So what do you think about the life of astronauts in space? Do you fancy it? Surely some of you would be dreaming right now to become an astronaut.