25 amazing facts and things you didn’t know about astronauts
Let’s be honest, who hasn’t ever thought about what travelling to space would be like? It is the dream of many and the privilege of only a few. But getting to space is not an easy task nor a matter of luck, the few chosen ones work extremely hard in order to see their wish fulfilled.
Astronauts are required to prepare for years before they even get the chance to go to space. They have to undergo a great deal of rigorous tests and extreme training (which very few are able to complete) and must exercise both physically and psychologically before taking off into the deep and intriguing cosmos.
They are requested to collect hundreds of hours of practice before they can qualify. The European Space Agency (ESA) divides this process into three main areas. First, aspiring astronauts must complete a basic training course that lasts approximately one year. This is not just any course, since these candidates study subjects such as space science and technology, basic medicine, scuba diving techniques and also acquire knowledge about the functioning of the International Space Station (ISS). At the end of this phase, aspirants move onto the next phase, where they face yet another challenging year of an advanced course to deepen their knowledge on the ISS, as well as continuing the study and developing experiments and transport vehicles and the participation of the ground control centre in missions.
Finally, after all this gruelling process they are assigned a real mission. Over several years, future ‘universe explorers’ cooperate with other crew members by learning the special tasks related to the work assigned to them. This way they become familiar with multiple tasks and challenges they will face during their journey, such as continued weightlessness and participation in parabolic flights.
Astronauts get to know their fellow astronauts very well as they visit training centers in the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada, and Europe. To top things off, as if all of the above was not enough, they learn a foreign language ( English is mandatory) in order to facilitate communication between the team itself. One of the most common languages used in Russian.
It’s incredible how much they have to overcome in order to have the opportunity to dedicate themselves to their great passion, to travel through space. The most surprising thing is that these people never stop facing challenges. Once they get on the ship and set off for their destination, the real difficulties and adventure begins.
In order to bring you a little closer to the mysteries of astronauts' day-to-day life, we have prepared this photo gallery with interesting facts and historical data about this surprising profession.
The reason why the profession of astronauts is less present in the female gender is not as obvious as you may think. This is because the threshold of exposure to space radiation is lower for women than it is for men, so this automatically becomes a health hazard for women. According to NASA experts, prolonged exposure to cosmic radiation, whether on the surface of some planets or in deep space, increases the likelihood of developing diseases such as cancer.
As Pedro Duque explained to MEGA in an interview, from the physical point of view, extraordinary conditions are not required for space travel. "You have to be in good health, yes, and to prove that you can withstand the three gravitational forces of pressure in the heart," said the astronaut.
The protagonist of the first visit to space was the Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, traveling on April 12, 1961 aboard the ship Vostok 1. Gagarin took a walk around our planet at a speed of 27,400 km / h, lasting 108 minutes. His words to describe the experience revealed his great astonishment: "The Earth is blue! From cosmic heights the planet is seen clearly, and mountains, coasts and islands are clearly distinguished," he later emphasized in his official report on the flight.
Also called Manned Maneuvering Unit, this is a 140 kg propulsion backpack that allows astronauts of the space shuttle to fly freely. It is placed in the EMU space suit and jet snd is propelled using high-pressure nitrogen. It consists of two aluminium tanks, each containing 5.9 kilos of nitrogen at a pressure of 20.7 kilopascals, which is more than enough for six hours of extravehicular activity (EVA).
For short-term expeditions they use special diapers called MAG. For longer trips, the ships have special toilets that operate at zero gravity. These do not absorb the waste by water, they function as very powerful vacuum cleaners that sweep away everything that is floating in the ship's environment.
If you are passionate about the world of astrophysics and space missions, you should not miss these feature films inspired by the interesting theme, most of them quite old: Interstellar (2014), by Christopher Nolan; Moon (2009), by Duncan Jones; Apollo 13 (1995), by Ron Howard; The Eighth Passenger (1979), by Ridley Scott; Solaris (1972), by Andréi Tarkovski; A Space Odyssey (1968), by Stanley Kubrick; Forbidden Planet (1956), by Fred M. Wilcox. (We have selected only some of the many available films and under subjective criteria).
Pedro Duque was the first Spanish astronaut (by birth and nationality) to step into space. He traveled in October 1998 with six other astronauts on the shuttle Discovery, with the aim of completing the STS-95 mission. Luckily, just in that same month Pedro Duque took the time to give MEGA Interesting his last interview before leaving.
As we all know, almost all the water astronauts consume in space is carried from Earth, so they have to ration this precious resource very well. Therefore, instead of taking a shower, they lather up with a damp cloth.
Made of heat-resistant synthetic materials, this model of suit does not burn or melt when in contact with flames. Proximity suits, used in firefighting and air accidents, can withstand up to 260°C! Obviously, those used by astronauts must also be able to protect in extreme temperature conditions: from the intense space cold (-270 ºC) and from the heat of re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere (1,260 ºC).
This Russian suit model allows astronauts to be out of station for more than seven hours, which they invest in installing new equipment or carrying out repair work. The pressure inside the suit is 0.4 atmospheres.
Astronauts often lose muscle mass, since in space they do not use the force needed on Earth to overcome the resistance generated by gravity. Sometimes their faces are swollen, as the liquid moves from the lower extremities to the upper part of the body, due to lack of gravity. Another damage they suffer is the loss of density of their bones (more than 1% per month in space). Astronauts face a number of difficulties such as walking and performing normal actions after their return.
Did you know that training for space walks is usually conducted underwater? As explained by NASA, due to the weightlessness of floating, experts consider this type of practice as the best way to undergo test from Earth.
Valentina Vladímirovna Tereshkova was born on 6 March 1937 and was the first female astronaut in history. With a Soviet background, Tereshkova was aboard the Vostok 6 on June 16, 1973, when at 9:23 a.m., she marked a before and after becoming the first civilian to fly into space. She was chosen from more than 400 aspirants and completed 48 orbits around the Earth in her three days of mission in space.
Russia sends armed astronauts on space travel. The purpose of this custom is only for the sake of protection and safety for the pilots since, in the case of landing in a desert area or in the middle of the forest, the astronauts can defend themselves against an animal attack.
The decreased pressure on the spine, due to the absence of gravity, increases astronauts' height by approximately five centimetres.
Astronaut Alan Shepard (crew member of Apollo 14) played golf on the moon's surface. On his third strike attempt, he sent the ball so far away that its whereabouts are unknown.
No granulated food such as salt, pepper or sugar is allowed in the halls. As an alternative to this rule, salt and pepper are served in liquid form.
After long periods of time traveling through space, an astronaut's heart becomes almost 10% more spherical. According to experts, this is due to the exposure of microgravity over an extended period of time. This becomes a problem, as it can lead to heart problems.
Space suit gloves are very heavy and bulky, and therefore directly affect astronauts' fingernails. The astronauts restrict their fingers so much that they end up cutting off the circulation to the fingers, but at the same time the strong pressure presses the tip of each one of the fingers. This is why their hands end up full of blisters and their nails start to fall off slowly.
Some astronauts have even pulled out their own nails before starting their journey, to avoid injury and possible infections.
Some would call him 'intrepid' and 'brave', while others would call him 'reckless' and 'foolish'. Bruce McCandless, born the same year as Tereshkova, made the longest space walk (in 1984). McCandless moved more than 100 meters away from the ship without any kind of connection to the ship. He moved around with the help of a nitrogen propulsion device.
Astronauts' suits have more than 90 meters of pipes that regulate the entire cooling system. The space suit is very heavy, weighing around 127 kg.
Laika was a Soviet-origin dog who became famous for becoming the first terrestrial living creature to travel into space. Laika was aboard the Sputnik 2 on November 3, 1957, when it began its launch. However, this story is more tragic than it seems, as the animal died within hours of being sent into space (estimated at 5 hours) because of the level of stress it suffered.
The vacuum of space prevents sound waves from being propagated, and therefore heard. In this way, in the absence of the transport of waves, such as air, outer space puts an end to the usual snoring of people.
Astronauts need to exercise their muscles, as they atrophy easily in space. For this reason, at the International Space Station there is a gym prepared for training.
Sleeping in outer space is a challenge of its own. The sun rises and sets approximately every 90 minutes making it difficult to have a good night’s sleep, so to speak.