10 Random Facts about Space Exploration

From Gravity to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the public is intrigued and enthralled by the topic of space travel. But what is it really like to travel in space? Read on to learn 10 little-known facts about space travel.

1. An astronaut’s spacesuit weighs around 280 pounds

It takes an astronaut around 45 minutes to put on a spacesuit. The suit provides protection in several important ways. For example, it protects astronauts from the massive temperature extremes experienced in space. Beyond the Earth’s atmospheres, temperatures can be as cold as -250 degrees Fahrenheit or as hot as 250 degrees in direct sunlight.

2. Astronauts usually tether themselves to spacecraft to conduct spacewalks

However, the first untethered spacewalk was conducted in 1984 by American astronaut Bruce McCandless as part of a Space Shuttle Challenger mission.

3. The first “space holiday” cost more than $20,000,000

American engineer Dennis Tito was the first private citizen to pay to visit the International Space Station. Tito blasted off on April 28, 2001, staying in space for eight days.

US space agency NASA refused to take Tito into space on the grounds that he had no formal astronaut training. He subsequently organized the extraterrestrial trip with Russian cosmonauts instead.

On returning to Earth, Dennis Tito famously told reporters, “I just came back from paradise!”

4. Most astronauts get space sickness

Just as some people experience motion sickness when traveling by boat, car, train, or plane, many astronauts experience space sickness.

The phenomenon is triggered by weightlessness, which can cause problems in the inner ear, the area that controls movement and balance. Weightlessness interferes with natural processes in the inner ear, causing feelings of disorientation that usually last between two to three days.

5. Those who walk on the moon leave potentially permanent imprints

Since the moon has no water, wind, or volcanic activity like Earth, marks on its surface, such as footprints, are essentially there to stay.

Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon on July 21, 1969. The footprints of the 11 astronauts who have walked on the moon since exist in the vacuum of space, with no breeze to disturb or erase them. Experts predict that Neil Armstrong’s “small step” will leave a mark on the moon’s surface for up to 1 million years.

6. It is hard to sleep in space

Many astronauts complain of insomnia, which, like space sickness, is triggered by weightlessness.

Astronauts are issued special pajamas, a sleeping bag, and a sleeping pod. Space sleeping bags are different from those we use on Earth. They have armholes and attach to the space pod’s cushioned wall to prevent the astronaut from floating around during sleep. Pillows are unnecessary, however-astronauts do not need to support their necks since there is no gravity in space.

7. The NASA pen story is an urban myth

According to urban legend, NASA spent hundreds of millions developing a pen capable of working in zero gravity, while the Russians simply relied on a pencil. The story may be an entertaining anecdote, but it has no basis in reality.

A pencil would actually pose a significant risk to a space mission. First, they are flammable. Second, if the graphite tip were to break, debris could infiltrate equipment, potentially damaging it.

The space pens used by NASA today were developed by Paul Fisher of the Fisher Pen Co. He spent about $1 million developing a pen capable of working within a zero-gravity vacuum in massive temperature extremes. NASA purchased 400 of these specialized space pens at $2.95 each.

8. Astronauts consume a dull diet

Since room onboard a space shuttle is restricted, astronauts are limited to 3.8 pounds of food per day, which includes 1 pound of packaging. This mainly consists of pre-processed food that is reconstituted by heating or adding water.

There is no refrigeration onboard spacecraft for perishables like fresh fruit and vegetables, so these foods only last for a few days. To make meals more palatable and interesting, astronauts often bring a variety of condiments such as mustard or hot sauce.

9. The moon has a distinctive smell

According to Harrison Schmitt of the Apollo 17 mission, the moon smells a little like gunpowder. Buzz Aldrin, who traveled on Apollo 11, described the aroma as being similar to charcoal or ashes sprinkled with water.

The director of the University of Tennessee’s Planetary Geosciences Institute Larry Taylor explained that the scorched aroma is attributable to broken electric bonds between atoms.

10. Some experts believe the moon was originally part of Earth

The fission theory proposes that when Earth was still relatively young, a giant object hit it, causing part of it to break away, forming the moon. Many leading experts believe that this theory explains the phenomenon of tidal lock, which the moon experiences with the Earth.

Originally published at https://www.dylantaylorfoundation.org on April 10, 2020.

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Dylan Taylor

Dylan Taylor is a global business leader and philanthropist. He is an active pioneer in the space exploration industry