Dirty laundry, puffy faces: the downside of space living
Space station crew members will exercise regularly to counter the debilitating effects of zero gravity
JOHNSON SPACE CENTER, Texas (CNN) -- The lives of the first
residents of the International Space Station might seem
glamorous. But according to veteran astronauts, the novelty soon
wears off and the challenges of living in a weightless world
The station's first crew, which began a four-month stay this
week, must deal with a variety of nuisances, like cramped
quarters, cultural differences, dirty laundry and puffy faces.
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"Your thighs and calves will get thinner because fluid
redistributes itself, your face will get puffy," said astronaut
and physician Ellen Baker, who survived a stint on the Russian
space station Mir and flew on three space shuttle missions.
"On the shuttle we get enough to pretty much change our clothes
every day. On the space station, they won't be able to change
their clothes that often, maybe every five days," she said.
Exercise is crucial for the station inhabitants since muscles
become weak and bones thin during prolonged periods in the
essentially weightless conditions in orbit.
The private parts
Other station stresses are more mundane. There's only one tiny
bathroom, complete with a strange looking lid on the toilet.
The bathroom also contains a urinal, an odor and bacteria filter and a vacuum vent. The commode has a "single multilayer hydrophobic porous bag liner" for collecting and storing solid waste, according to NASA.
Russian and American crews will have to get used to each other's space diets on the ISS
The urinal assembly is a flexible hose with attachable funnels for males or females. It can be used in a standing position or can be attached to the commode by a pivoting mounting bracket for use in a sitting position, NASA said.
The crew takes no showers. But they do have soap.
"It lathers up pretty good and you can wipe it off and your hair
feels reasonably clean," Baker said.
No home cooking in the orbiting outpost. Half the food is
Russian, served in a can. Half is from the United States, served
in a bag. The meals rotate and the crew of one American and two
Russians gets a taste of each other's culture.
Most of it is dehydrated, so astronauts must add water and heat
it -- with a food warmer, not a food cooker.
Many Russian cosmonauts had never tasted pudding before. U.S.
astronauts had to get used to borscht. Russians wondered about
eating vegetables on the side.
Russian cosmonauts toasted each other with vodka on Mir, but alcohol won't be on the menu for U.S. astronauts on the ISS
What about wine with dinner?
"Not in the U.S. program," said Vickie Kloeris of NASA's Space
Station Food Systems.
What about the Russian program? Cosmonauts toasted with vodka on
"I have yet to get somebody to officially admit that they take it
yet we know it's there," Kloeris said.
There is the psychological toll as well. Many people can get
along for two weeks with strangers, but what about four or more
months like space station crews?
"After six months, your usual outlets are not there. You will
have to have some personal strategy how to relax, how to deal
with stress," said Baker.
Along with exercise, station crews will be able to watch movies,
listen to music. One day they will be able to phone home. In the
meantime, there is one great escape available all the time.
"You can look out the window and see the whole world," Baker
Crew sets up shop on space station 'Alpha'
November 2, 2000
First space station residents speed toward new home
October 31, 2000
Crew blasts off for International Space Station
October 30, 2000
Discovery docks at International Space Station
October 13, 2000
Cargo ship docks with International Space Station
August 8, 2000
Boeing: International Space Station
NASA: Human Spaceflight
Russian Space Agency
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