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Weird Details About Astronauts' Everyday Lives In Space

Many Earthlings dream of going to the stars, but once they get there, just what do astronauts do in space? We've seen the most glorious historical moments, we've passed around conspiracy theories and stories about the strange things astronauts have seen, but we rarely talk about what happens to people in outer space on just an average day.

From the famous Apollo missions of the 1960s to today's International Space Station residents, astronauts have to deal with mealtimes, bodily functions, and good-old-fashioned workdays in strange and complicated ways. How these brave scientists and military folk deal with the challenges of living in space is as inventive as you might expect, and possibly more ridiculous.

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  • Only Artificial Days Keep Astronauts Safe From Permanent Jet Lag

    Every 24 hours, astronauts on the ISS witness 15 dawns, so normal time conventions of the Sun rising and setting are obsolete in space. While it might seem freeing to make a "day" be whatever you want it to, human bodies are accustomed to biological rhythms and the need for a 24-hour day. Without help, astronauts would become permanently sluggish and disoriented.

    A careful use of lights and alarms help condition the astronauts to always get up and go to sleep around the same time. 

  • They Watch A Lot Of Space Movies

    Another popular pastime on the ISS is to watch movies. The station has a video collection containing hundreds of titles and covering a wide variety of genres, including fantasies and comedies. Reportedly, though, movies about government lawbreakers - such as Rambo - are conspicuously missing.

    Of course, many movies are about space, and astronauts love to debate the best science fiction movies. Scott Kelly and Dr. Kjell Lindgren praised Apollo 13 for its characters and Gravity for the realism of its space station.

  • Spacewalking Is Exciting, But They Have To Rehearse First

    Spacewalking Is Exciting, But They Have To Rehearse First
    Photo: NASA / NASA / Public Domain

    Astronauts often call spacewalks - or EVAs, for Extra-Vehicular Activities - some of the most exciting and memorable parts of their visits to space. These activities are also incredibly dangerous, so before they even arrive on the ISS, space workers have to practice working on a life-size model submerged in a giant tank of water.

    Once on board, you can't just throw on your spacesuit and take a quick waltz outside. EVAs are planned with meticulous detail, sometimes months in advance, and just suiting up is a lengthy process requiring a 100-page checklist

  • Fresh Fruit Is Sometimes Flown Into The ISS To Help Boost Morale

    Living in a small, cramped space day after day can start to drag after a few months, even in space. To keep the mood up, astronauts band together to have as much fun as possible.

    Fresh fruit is sent to the ISS with every new arrival for the whole team to unpack and enjoy. Despite the difficulties in gathering the whole crew of astronauts and cosmonauts together, the ISS makes it priority; group meals and movies have proven to help everyone bond and lift their spirits.

  • Everyone Gets A Personal Nozzle To Use In The Bathroom

    Everyone poops, including astronauts, and it all has to go somewhere. Early Moon missions used bags, tubes, and diapers to gather and contain human waste, but this was obviously not ideal.

    Even today, though, the toilet on the ISS is an expensive and precarious piece of machinery. Urine is sucked away using a personal nozzle attached to a suction pipe, and most of it is converted back into water for the astronauts to use. Going number two is a trickier proposition, one that requires special camera-assisted training and occasional hand-packing of feces before they're launched on a course to burn up in Earth's atmosphere.

  • Trying To Sleep Is Like "Living In A Vacuum Cleaner" 

    Though some astronauts try floating free at bedtime, it's a tricky prospect; they can end up colliding into air vents and other pieces of machinery. Most space travelers instead curl up in a sleeping bag and strap themselves to a sleeping nook, or hook themselves to an isolated hallway, but even then, their perils aren't over. Warm air doesn't rise in space, so exhaled breath merely bubbles in front of their face. Those who don't take care to sleep near a ventilator fan suffer oxygen starvation, which results in a splitting headache at best, if not a dangerous medical emergency. 

    Even once in the right position, all those fans and machines are cold and noisy, to the point where astronauts have said living on a space station is like living in a vacuum cleaner. Some wear earplugs, but most say they eventually get used to the noise and find it comforting since, after all, it is keeping them alive.