Regular readers of my blog know how desperately I want to live on the Moon or Mars or at least get to go to space once in my lifetime. It might even be fun to have a career in space exploration, but there are some things about being an astronaut that sound… less than dignified. Here are a few reason not to be an astronaut.
- No shower. For decades, NASA and other space agencies have struggled to figure out how to build a shower that works in space. In zero gravity, water likes to form big, liquid globs that drift aimlessly around the room. Skylab had a shower of sorts, as did Russia’s Mir space station, but the current International Space Station has no shower, mainly because every drop of water on the ISS has to be strictly rationed. The best astronauts can hope for is a kind of sponge bath using a washcloth and a tiny bag of soapy water.
- No laundry. This is similar to the no shower problem. Water just doesn’t cooperate, and there isn’t enough of it anyway. Most astronauts have to wear the same clothes and the same underwear for days on end. All their dirty laundry is then dumped into space with the rest of the garbage (and incinerates when it hits the planet’s atmosphere), and fresh clothing is sent up from Earth.
- The toilet. I was once told astronauts have to wear diapers because there’s no toilet in space. Fortunately, this isn’t true, but the toilet on the International Space Station is not what I’d call ideal, and apparently “mistakes” have been made. Just watch the video.
All that being said, every great explorer has had to make some sacrifices and endure certain hardships. I’m sure many suffered far worse things than dirty laundry and no working shower. If I’m ever given the opportunity, I’d still go to space. I think I’d rather be a space tourist than an actual astronaut, though. To those astronauts who are not only boldly going where no one’s gone before but are bravely sacrificing many of the creature comforts we Earthlings take for granted… I salute you.