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Living Out In Space

Have you ever wondered what life would be like for an astronaut living out in space? If you guessed that it’s pretty different from living here on Earth, you’d be right! Astronauts have to get special training to learn how to live in space. Right now, astronauts who live in space live on the International Space Station (ISS). 

An image of an astronaut on a spacewalk, outside the ISS.

Image Credit: NASA

 

Your Body is Weightless!

One of the biggest changes you’d experience if you went out into space is that you’d feel weightless! Instead of your feet always touching the ground, you’d float around in your spacecraft. And everything else in the spacecraft would be weightless too! That’s because there’s no gravity in space. 
 

This means astronauts don’t have to walk around the spacecraft. Instead, they float along and pull themselves with their hands or push off the walls with their feet!

An image of the astronaut, Stephanie Wilson, floating on the space station.

Astronaut Stephanie Wilson floats on the space shuttle Discovery. (Image Credit: NASA)

Because you don’t have to stand up or walk around, your body can change a lot. Your muscles, bones, and heart all don’t have to work as hard in space to support your body. Because they’re not working as hard, they tend to get weaker. This is why astronauts have a really hard time standing and walking when they get back from space!

An image of an astronaut being carried away from the landing after returning from space.

Astronauts from the ISS have to be carried away from the landing site! (Image Credit: NASA)

Sickness in Space

As far as we know, there are no germs that normally live in space. That’s because space doesn’t have much of what living things need to survive. This means that the only bacteria or viruses you’d encounter in space are any you brought with you! Or that any of your astronaut friends brought with them.
 
Astronauts are careful to make sure they don’t bring harmful germs to space with them. A week before they go into space, they are put in quarantine. This means they can’t be in the same room with other people. That way they won’t get sick right before they launch!

An image of astronauts behind glass before launch.

The astronauts in this photo are behind the glass wall. It’s only a day before their launch, so they can’t get too close to other people! (Image Credit: NASA)

Radiation in Space

One of the risks astronauts take by going to space is exposing themselves to more radiation. Certain types of radiation can damage living organisms.
 
Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere protect us from lots of harmful radiation. Since the ISS is outside the atmosphere, they get exposed to ten times more radiation than we do here on Earth. NASA scientists are working to understand how much radiation is safe for our bodies.
 

Day and Night

Living out in space means that astronauts don’t have the same daytime and nighttime that we do here on Earth. The ISS orbits the Earth 16 times a day, so astronauts there see 16 sunrises and sunsets each day!

An image taken from ISS over Earth.

ISS astronauts get to see lots of sunsets like this! (Image Credit: NASA)

 
You can probably imagine that this makes it hard for astronauts to keep track of when they should be asleep. Normally, our bodies are pretty good at reminding us that we should be asleep at night and awake during the day.
 
Since the space station doesn’t have the same day we do, they track time based on one of the time zones on Earth. To help them stay asleep, astronauts often sleep with eye covers and earplugs.

An image of two astronauts sleeping on the ISS.

These two astronauts are sleeping peacefully on the ISS. (Image Credit: NASA)

Living in the Same Place

One of the most difficult things about living out in space is you don’t get to move around much. Astronauts on the ISS stay there for a few months or up to a year. They spend almost all their time inside the station.
 
The whole station is big, but the parts that the astronauts can stay in are long and narrow. Some astronauts get claustrophobic on the space station. This means they get nervous about being stuck in the small space.

An image of an astronauts bedroom on the ISS.

This is one of the bedrooms on the ISS! As you can tell, the astronauts don’t get a lot of room. (Image Credit: NASA)

 
Astronauts often also get homesick. They can’t come back to Earth until their mission is over. That’s because it takes a lot of money and energy to get an astronaut to the ISS. 
 
Because of these challenges, astronauts have to take extra care to stay mentally and socially healthy. Many astronauts take pictures of friends and family with them to space. They also have a phone so they can call home whenever they want! 

Other Great Resources

Living in Space – NASA: https://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/k-4/home/F_Living_in_Space.html

Living in Space – ESA Kids: https://www.esa.int/esaKIDSen/Livinginspace.html

A Day in the Life on the International Space Station – NASA: https://www.nasa.gov/audience/foreducators/stem-on-station/dayinthelife

The Human Body in Space – NASA: https://www.nasa.gov/hrp/bodyinspace

(Video) Everything About Living in Space – NASA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ouDKD9G9jOE

 

Written by: Alexa Wnorowski