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Space exploration
Meeting basic needs in space


sleep in the space

Piloted space vehicles have life-support systems designed to meet all the physical needs of the crew members. In addition, astronauts can carry portable life-support systems in backpacks when they work outside the main spacecraft.

Breathing. A piloted spacecraft must have a source of oxygen for the crew to breathe and a means of removing carbon dioxide, which the crew exhales. Piloted space vehicles use a mixture of oxygen and nitrogen similar to Earth's atmosphere at sea level. Fans circulate air through the cabin and over containers filled with pellets of a chemical called lithium hydroxide. These pellets absorb carbon dioxide from the air. Carbon dioxide can also be combined with other chemicals for disposal. Charcoal filters help control odors.

Eating and drinking. The food on a spacecraft must be nutritious, easy to prepare, and convenient to store. On early missions, astronauts ate freeze-dried foods-that is, frozen foods with the water removed. To eat, the astronauts simply mixed water into the food. Packaging consisted of plastic tubes. The astronauts used straws to add the water.

Over the years, the food available to space travelers became more appetizing. Today, astronauts enjoy ready-to-eat meals much like convenience foods on Earth. Many space vehicles have facilities for heating frozen and chilled food.

Water for drinking is an important requirement for a space mission. On space shuttles, devices called fuel cells produce pure water as they generate electricity for the spacecraft. On long missions, water must be recycled and reused as much as possible. Dehumidifiers remove moisture from exhaled air. On space stations, this water is usually reused for washing.

Eliminating body wastes. The collection and disposal of body wastes in microgravity poses a major challenge. Astronauts use a device that resembles a toilet seat. Air flow produces suction that moves the wastes into collection equipment under the seat. On small spacecraft, crew members use funnels for urine and plastic bags for solid wastes. While working outside the spacecraft, astronauts wear special equipment to contain body wastes.

Bathing. The simplest bathing method aboard a spacecraft is a sponge bath with wet towels. Astronauts on early space stations used a fully enclosed, collapsible plastic shower stall. This allowed the astronauts to spray their bodies with water, then vacuum the stall and towel themselves dry. Newer space stations have permanent shower stalls.

Sleeping. Space travelers can sleep in special sleeping bags with straps that press them to the soft surface and to a pillow. However, most astronauts prefer to sleep floating in the air, with only a few straps to keep them from bouncing around the cabin. Astronauts may wear blindfolds to block the sunlight that streams in the windows periodically during orbit. Typically, sleep duration in space is about the same as that on Earth.

Recreation on long space flights is important to the mental health of the astronauts. Sightseeing out the spacecraft window is a favorite pastime. Space stations have small collections of books, tapes, and computer games. Exercise also provides relaxation.

Controlling inventory and trash.
Keeping track of the thousands of items used during a mission poses a major challenge in space. Drawers and lockers hold some materials. Other equipment is strapped to the walls, ceilings, and floors. Computer-generated lists keep track of what is stored where, and computerized systems check the storage and replacement of materials. The crew aboard the spacecraft may stow trash in unused sections of the vehicle, throw it overboard to burn up harmlessly in the atmosphere, or bring it back to Earth for disposal.

Contributor: James Oberg, M.S., Spaceflight Engineer; author, UFOs and Outer Space Mysteries.
Source : World Book 2005

Space exploration
What is space?
Getting into space and back
Living in space
Meeting basic needs in space
Communicating with Earth
The dawn of the space age
Space probes
Probes to Venus
Probes to Jupiter and beyond
Probes to comets
Human beings enter space
Apollo: Mission to the moon
Exploring the moon
Returning to Earth
The International Space Station
Space shuttles
Types of shuttle missions