Top 10 Sickening Facts About Space Travel

The idea of traveling into space seems cool. Many of us have imagined becoming astronauts—or possibly the first person on Mars—at some point in our lives. Who hasn’t wanted to touch the stars?

However, there are some facts that might have made us reconsider if our dreams hadn’t died off, anyway. From the unfortunate consequences of venturing into a decidedly human-unfriendly environment to the inability of Earth-made products to properly adjust to space, there are many attributes of space travel that you may not have anticipated. Here are ten sickening facts about space travel.

NASA Doesn’t Know What To Do With Astronauts Who Die In Space

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NASA has no concrete plans regarding what to do with the bodies of astronauts who die in space. In fact, NASA doesn’t even expect astronauts to die in space, so it doesn’t train them on what to do in the event of the death of a colleague. But what would happen if an astronaut dies in space? The possibility of this is higher than ever as NASA plans for long-term missions like a trip to Mars.

One option is to release the body into space. However, this isn’t really an option since the United Nations prohibits the dumping of litter, which includes bodies, in space over fears that they might collide with spaceships or contaminate other planets. Another option is to store the body inside the spaceship and bury it upon returning to Earth. Again, this is not an option since it would put the lives of other astronauts at risk. A last option, if man ever gets to colonize Mars, is to use the body as fertilizer. However, it remains in doubt whether humans make good fertilizer.

NASA is currently working with Promessa, a burial company, to develop what it calls “Body Back.” With Body Back, a corpse is sealed inside an airtight sleeping bag and attached to the outside of the spaceship, where it is exposed to the extremely cold temperatures of space. The body freezes, vibrates, and finally shatters into small, fine particles as the spacecraft travels through space. By the time the spaceship returns to Earth, all that that’s left of the dead astronaut would be small, fine, dust-sized particles.

Astronauts Drink Recycled Urine

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Access to fresh water can be a problem in space. American astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS) get most of their water by recycling and recovering it using the Water Recovery System, which NASA introduced in 2009. Just as the name implies, the Water Recovery System allows astronauts to recover most of the water they lose through sweat and urine or while brushing or making coffee.

American astronauts aren’t just recycling their own urine. They’re also recycling the urine of cosmonauts, since the Russians have refused to recycle their own pee. According to Layne Carter, NASA’s water subsystem manager for the ISS, the recycled water tastes just like bottled water.

Astronauts Lose Muscle And Bone Mass And Suffer From Premature Aging

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The microgravity environment of space causes premature aging in astronauts. Their skin ages faster, becomes drier and thinner, and is prone to itching. As if that isn’t enough, their bones and muscles become weaker. Astronauts lose one percent of their muscle mass and as much as two percent of their bone mass with every month that they spend in space. A four- to six-month trip to the International Space Station would lead to the loss of about 11 percent of the mass of the hip bone.

Even astronauts’ arteries aren’t spared. They become stiffer, as would be expected in people 20 or 30 years older. This makes astronauts susceptible to heart problems and stroke. Canadian astronaut Robert Thirsk suffered weakness, fragile bones, and lack of balance after spending six months in space. He said he felt like a senior citizen by the time he returned to Earth. Premature aging is now recognized as one of the side effects of space travel. It remains unpreventable, although astronauts can reduce its effect by exercising for two hours each day.

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