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Living in Space
02.26.04
 
Living in space is not the same as living on Earth. Many things are different. Our bodies change in space. The way we stay clean and neat is different too. Learn how astronauts stay strong, clean and neat.

Staying Strong

Astronaut on a treadmill in space
Image above: An astronaut walks on a treadmill to stay strong and healthy
Living in space is not the same as living on Earth. In space, astronauts' bodies change. On Earth, our lower body and legs carry our weight. This helps keep our bones and muscles strong. In space, astronauts float. They do not use their legs much. Their lower backs begin to lose strength. Their leg muscles do too. The bones begin to get weak and thin. This is very bad for astronauts' bodies. So, how do astronauts help their muscles and bones? They must exercise in space every day.

The heart and blood change in space, too. When we stand up on Earth, blood goes to our legs. The heart has to work extra hard against gravity to move the blood all around the body. In space, without the pull of gravity, the blood moves to the upper body and head. Water in the body also does the same thing. It makes the astronauts' faces look puffy. The blood and water are fluids in the body. These fluids move from the bottom of the body to the top. The brain thinks that there are too many fluids. It will tell the body to make less. When the astronauts come back to Earth, they do not have enough fluids in their systems. It takes their bodies a few days to make more blood and water. The astronauts have to rest so their bodies have time to make new blood and water. If they don't, they can feel very weak. They might even faint!

Staying Clean

Astronaut brushes teeth while in space
Image above: An astronaut brushes his teeth while in space
On Earth, people need to stay clean. In space, astronauts need to stay clean, too. Staying clean takes more work in space. In space, the astronauts do not have a bathroom as we have at home. But, they do have their own toothbrushes, toothpaste, combs, brushes, and shavers. These are kept in a Personal Hygiene Kit.

Astronauts use toothpaste and toothbrushes just like yours. There is no sink like yours on the Space Shuttle, though. Astronauts have to spit into a washcloth.

People take baths a different way in space, too. Astronauts use special kinds of soap and shampoo. These soaps do not need water to rinse. Astronauts must use them carefully. They do not let the soap bubbles go all over the place. After washing, they use a towel to dry off. They do not rinse. These special soaps and shampoos were made for hospitals. Patients who cannot get in the water use these soaps.

Staying Neat

Doing chores is not always a fun thing. But we have to keep our rooms and houses clean and neat. In space, astronauts live in a very small space. They have to keep their area clean in space just like we do on Earth.

In space, the astronauts wipe the walls, floors, and windows to keep them clean. They use a soap that kills germs. The astronauts also use wet wipes to wash things. They use the same kind of wipes and cleanser on their forks, spoons, and eating trays.

Astronauts have to take out the garbage, too. There are four trash bins on the Space Shuttle. Three are for dry trash and one is for wet trash. Wet trash is anything that could smell bad. Each trash container has a trash liner placed inside. It is like a plastic garbage bag. If the liner becomes full, it is closed. Then it is moved far away from the astronauts. The wet trash is closed up tight. It is then connected to a hose. The hose helps move bad smells away from the astronauts.

Astronauts must use a vacuum cleaner in space. The vacuum has a normal hose. It also has extra parts. These parts can clean areas that may be hard to reach. They also use it to keep dust out of the air filters. And sometimes things get loose. When things get loose, they float. Astronauts use the vacuum to "catch" floating objects that are out of their reach.



Excerpted from NASA Life Sciences Data Archive