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What Happens to our Bodies in Space?

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be an astronaut floating around in the International Space Station (ISS), bouncing off the walls and gliding through tunnels? It sounds like a lot of fun to me, but what are the side effects of hanging out in microgravity? As you might imagine, things get a little weird in space, especially in your body. 

Puffy face and skinny legs

On Earth, our body fluids tend to pool in our legs. For the first few weeks in microgravity, the fluid will pool in your upper body and face, causing you to have a puffy face and skinny legs!

Grace in space

Imagine how little effort you would need to open a door onboard the ISS. Astronauts get used to being gentle and moving with ease and find it hard to readjust when they return to Earth. They often drop things or slam things down. Coordination is something astronauts must work on, post space flight.

Stars in your eyes

Space is full of radiation. Here on Earth, our magnetic field protects us, but in space, the ISS can only somewhat protect the astronauts and most radiation passes right through the metal. Astronauts have complained about seeing flashes of light when they close their eyes. These are cosmic rays—highly charged particles that come from our Sun.

The astronaut who holds the record for the longest time in space is Valeri Polyakov, with a total of 437 consecutive days. Most space trips last from six months to a year. Each astronaut has their radiation exposure monitored and when they reach the allowable limit, there is no more space time for them.

You can’t burp!

With no gravity, bubbles in carbonated drinks don’t rise. Fizzy drinks are not a good idea, unless you want a belly full of gas bubbles.

Personal space

A very common thing that astronauts struggle with is personal hygiene. You can’t have a bath or a shower because water collects and forms a big ball. Wet wipes are your only option. On top of that, with no gravity, the heat cannot rise off of your skin and so your body sweats more to cool you down, but it doesn’t drip off, it just pools. Astronauts say that personal space is a much bigger issue on the ISS than it is on Earth and now we can see why!

You get taller

After 6 months in space you will be 3% taller, because your spine is able to expand without gravity. When you return to earth however, be prepared to have sore feet and a backache for a few months.

Rule number one is exercise!

But why do astronauts need to workout so hard? It’s not like you need to be super strong to lift weightless objects. The problem is, with no gravity pulling down on your body, your muscles will start to waste away and your bone density will drop. This can all be very problematic when you return to Earth.

The astronauts set aside two and a half hours a day for cardio and strength training on the ISS. They use a range of equipment to keep fit, but they have to be strapped in by harnesses to keep them from floating away. Their equipment includes a cycle ergometer to measure heart rates, treadmills to simulate walking and running on Earth and the RED which is short for resistance exercise device. Lifting weights in microgravity is pretty useless, so muscle building exercises need to be in the form of resistance training. This could be a full body workout including squats, bicep curls and sit ups.

For hands-on activities you can do to discover what it takes to survive in space check out Exploring Space on Science World Resources.