Travelling into space used to be a dream that could only be fulfilled by a small number of people. But today we are seeing the first experiments in space tourism moving ahead successfully – perhaps one day in the future we could all be astronauts!
In the meantime here are 36 facts about Astronauts you might not know.
36 Facts about Astronauts
1. The astronauts of Apollo 11 couldn’t get life insurance, so they signed photos that their families could auction in case the landing went wrong.
2. On Space Shuttle Endeavor, astronaut John Grunsfeld called into NPR’s Car Talk and asked why his government vehicle was shaking violently for a couple minutes before the engine died.
3. A NASA astronaut waited 19 years to fly in space. Don Lind was selected in 1966 but was chosen for canceled missions, or as a backup for missions; he said, “I was backing up two of the most depressingly healthy people you can imagine.” Lind finally flew on the space shuttle in 1985.
4. All US astronauts are required to learn Russian as part of their extensive training and have to be able to run the ISS using Russian-language training manuals if necessary.
5. Astronauts must have good airflow around them when they sleep, otherwise, they could wake up oxygen-deprived and gasping for air because a bubble of their own exhaled carbon dioxide had formed around their heads.
6. NASA Astronaut Owen Garriott successfully pranked flight controllers by playing a recording of his wife whilst on SkyLab. There were no women on board the space station and was used to make it look like there was a stowaway.
7. NASA accidentally auctioned off for just $995 a bag that was used by Apollo 11 astronauts to collect the first lunar sample. When the buyer sent the bag to NASA for verification, the space agency realized its mistake and refused to return it.
8. Neil Armstrong threatened legal action against his barber, for selling his hair to a collector for $3,000.
9. Apollo 12 commander Pete Conrad’s first word upon setting foot on the Moon was “Whoopee!” in order to win a $500 bet with an Italian journalist that NASA didn’t script astronaut declarations.
10. In 1971, the US left a memorial on the Moon for every astronaut who died in the pursuit of space exploration, including Russian Cosmonauts.
11. Mae Jemison, the first female African-American astronaut, was inspired to apply to NASA by the Star Trek character, Lieutenant Uhura. Jemison later went on to make a cameo appearance in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
12. Astronaut Michael Collin’s secret fear was that he had to return to Earth alone, leaving Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stranded on the moon. He sometimes thought it would be better to not have that option.
13. When Astronaut Ed Mitchell was asked what it’s like to stand on the moon, he said: “From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a b*tch.’
14. NASA has decided to use Metric Units for all operations on the lunar surface when it returns to the Moon. The Vision for Space Exploration calls for returning astronauts to the Moon by 2020 and eventually setting up a manned lunar outpost.
15. An Apollo astronaut lost his wedding ring during his trip to the moon and found it again during a spacewalk.
16. Neil Armstrong’s astronaut application form arrived a week past the deadline. His friend d*ck Day saw the late arrival of the application and slipped it into the pile before anyone noticed.
17. Astronaut John Glenn became the oldest person in space at 77 after “lobbying NASA for two years to fly as a human guinea pig for geriatric studies”.
18. It is almost certain that the astronauts survived the initial Challenger explosion, and died on impact with the water. At least three of the crew’s emergency oxygen tanks were manually switched on after the crew’s capsule broke apart from the rest of the shuttle.
19. The second American in space had hay fever and was almost disqualified from astronaut training until NASA realized the absence of pollen in space.
20. Low gravity makes it difficult to tell if your bladder is full because the bladder’s stretch receptor nerves don’t feel the weight of the liquid. Astronauts are trained to empty their bladders every two hours because of this.
21. The threshold for of exposure to space radiation is lower for women than it is for men. This cosmic radiation increases the likelihood of developing diseases such as cancer. This is why there are fewer female astronauts than male.
22. The first visitor into space was the Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. On April 12, 1961 aboard the ship Vostok 1 he took a walk around the planet at a speed of 27,400 kms per hour lasting 108 minutes.
23. The NASA backpack is a 140kg propulsion backpack that allows astronauts to fly freely. It is made up of two aluminium tanks. Each of them contain 5.9 kilos of nitrogen at a pressure of 20.7 kilopascals. This is enough for more than six hours of extravehicular activity.
24. Astronauts have special diapers for short term trips called MAG. For longer trips there are special toilets that operate at zero gravity. They don’t actually absorb the waste. Instead they act as a vaccum cleaner that grabs anything that floats in the ship.
25. There aren’t any rain showers on a spaceship. All water onboard must be carried from Earth so it is very carefully rationed. This means that astronauts lather with a damp cloth rather than having a shower.
26. A space suit can stand up to a lot. IT doesn’t burn or melt – it can stand temperatures of up to 260 degrees celsius. It can also can also stand up to intense cold up to -270 degrees. There was no mention of how comfortable or flattering the space suits are!
27. An Astronauts body can change quite a bit when in space. They tend to lose muscle mass becuase they don’t have to use the force we require on earth to resist gravity.
They can end up with swollen facts as liquid moves from the lower body to the upper body when there is no gravity. Bone density can also reduce by up to more than 1% per month when in space.
28. Astronauts train for walking in space by walking underwater. As we are weightless when we float NASA considers this the best way to train for a zero gravity environment.
29. Astronauts become taller in space. As there is less pressure on the spine due to the lack of gravity, the height of an astronaut can increase by about five centimetres when they are in space.
30. The shape of an astronauts heart can also change while they are in space. Again due to the lack of gravity the heart of an astronaut can become 10% more spherical which can lead to heart problems.
31. Space is bad news for hands and fingers. The gloves that astronauts have to wear cut off circulation to the fingers but also apply strong pressure to the tips of each of the fingers. This means that astronaut’s nails tend to fall off whilst they end up with hands covered in blisters as well. A post space manicure is essential!
32. Space suits are heavy. They have more than 90 metres of pipe in them to regular the suit’s cooling system. This means that they weigh over 125 kgs.
33. The first living creature that went into space was the Soviet dog Laika. Laika was aboard the Sputnik 2 on November 3, 1957. Unfortunately the animal died about 5 hours after being sent into space due to the stress that it suffered.
34. There is no snoring in space. The vaccum of space means that sound waves can’t be transported which means they can’t be heard. No more snoring.
35. There is no escaping your workout in space. The muscles of an astronaut will atrophy quickly in space so muscles need to be exercised. So there is a gym at the International Space Station to allow for a workout.
36. Daylight is seriously out of whack in space. The sun actually rises and sets about every 90 minutes. This makes it difficult for astronauts to get a decent amount of sleep.