Space travel is life-enhancing, and anything that’s life-enhancing is worth doing.
It makes you want to live forever
An astronaut experiences an intense stressing during the take off and landing, connected with jumps in blood pressure and weight. During the take off, owing to the achievement of a rattling good speed, the astronaut’s weight increases by several times. Meanwhile, he has to monitor the display and report on the progress of the flight. Upon reaching orbit there appears weightlessness. Due to the disappearance of the force of gravity, astronaut and objects in the cabin lose their weight and any sudden movement may result in the casting away of the astronaut. When returning to Earth, the weight comes back and astronaut feels a sense of unusual weight. To prepare for these conditions and make overloads much easier, astronauts need to be trained on Earth.
The preparation process is divided into:
- general space training (candidates for astronauts study sciences which are the basis of the profession: rocket and space technology, stellar navigation, geophysics, astronomy, cosmic medicine, etc.);
- direct (familiarizing with devices they would use during the mission, vestibular training, trainings in different simulators: altitude chamber, compression chamber, thermal chamber, et al.).
All technical equipment for training can be divided into two large groups:
a) exogenous simulators (simulate overload, weightlessness, “jumps” and other pressures):
- weightless environment training facilities;
- different cameras;
- exercise equipment, etc.
b) simulators to form the skills of flight management:
- placement into orbit;
- orientation by the sun, planets, data from the earth;
- approach and undocking of the spacecraft;
- realization of special tasks anticipated by the program, etc.
Astronauts must not only be familiarized with complex and highly specialized flight vehicles, equipment, suits but also with microgravity working environment . They are trained in simulators that imitate vibration, noise during the shuttle launch and landing, experience weightless environment and spend hours walking in space. Modern astronauts use a virtual reality headset to practice mission skills. Moreover, astronauts are trained to overcome daily hardships and needs in space:
- eating (astronauts eat three meals a day (plus snacks). On board the foods are either partially or completely dehydrated, so astronauts add water to freeze-dried foods and dehydrated drinks from a rehydration station that dispenses both hot and cold water. On average, it takes about 20 to 30 minutes to rehydrate and heat the meal);
- sleeping (astronauts are scheduled for eight hours of sleep. In weightlessness they attach their sleeping bags to a wall or a ceiling, and sleep anywhere, so long as they don’t float around. They sleep in well-ventilated headquarters to have adequate oxygen);
- hygiene (astronauts have sponge baths instead of regular showers; they use vacuum devices when they shave or cut hair, so as not to let the hair escape into the air. They use toothpaste; however, instead of rinsing with water they spit toothpaste into a towel. Recently, astronauts have been using edible toothpaste to reduce water waste) [3, 4, 6].
Astronaut candidates must also pass demanding physical requirements:
- 20/20 vision;
- blood pressure not more than 140/90;
- a height of between 62 and 75 inches [1, 2].
Beyond question, the opportunity to visit space is an exciting adventure and an ambitious challenge with a lot of preliminary training on Earth, which takes approximately 2 to 3 years. This training consists of basic classroom learning, as well as flights in the “vomit comet” (simulates weightlessness) and participating in different simulations using full-scale mockups and many other things.
1. Astronaut requirements. http://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/postsecondary/features/F_Astronaut_Requirements.html (accessed April 25, 2015).
2. Howell E. How to become an astronaut. http://www.space.com/25786-how-to-become-an-astronaut.html (accessed April 25, 2015).
3. Personal hygiene in space. http://www.asc-csa.gc.ca/eng/astronauts/living-hygiene.asp (accessed April 25, 2015).
4. Sleeping in space http://www.esa.int/esaKIDSen/SEMAIP6TLPG_LifeinSpace_0.html (accessed April 25, 2015).
5. Training for space https://www.nasa.gov/centers/johnson/pdf/160410main_space_training_fact_sheet.pdf (accessed April 25, 2015).
6. Watson S. How do astronauts eat in space? http://science.howstuffworks.com/astronauts-eat-in-space.htm (accessed April 25, 2015).