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.
They Vote Using A Special Electronic Absentee Ballot
Just because an astronaut's in space doesn't mean they don't have the opportunity to perform their civic duty and vote. In 1997, Rule 81.35 in the Texas state legislature passed. This law says "a person who meets the eligibility requirements of a vote under the Texas Election Code, Chapter 101, but who will be on a space flight during the early-voting period and on Election Day, may vote." The law falls under Texas jurisdiction because many astronauts live in the state - that's where NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC) is.
Before an astronaut goes up, they have to figure out which (if any) elections they will miss. Then, before Election Day, Mission Control at JSC sends an encrypted e-ballot to each astronaut. Every individual is able to access their ballots using a code they received in a protected email. The astronauts are then able to send their vote directly back down to the County Clerk's office.
David Wolf was the first astronaut to cast his vote from space. He was on the Russian Space Station Mir in 1997 when he cast his ballot.
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.
So Far, There's No Sex In Space - At Least Not Technically
Astronauts live in close quarters, working together under exciting circumstances - a situation that seems tailor-made for sexual tension. One recently married couple, Mark Lee and Jan Davis, even flew together, although that's now prohibited by NASA. Yet every astronaut interviewed says space is free of sex. Based on everything known about space, it would be pretty difficult anyway, thanks to problems like flying apart in zero-gravity and decreased blood flow, not to mention a lack of privacy.