Living in space takes some getting used to. The simplest everyday actions, become problems in zero gravity. Most of these have been solved, but living in space for long periods of time has many other drawbacks. Effects of the low gravity of space on the human body include loss of minerals in bones and wasting of muscles. Also, living in isolation for long periods of time can have effectson the mind. Much more research is needed before astronauts can undergo long trips in space.
How does the crew deal with medical emergencies in space?
The Shuttle carries a series of medical kits called the Shuttle Orbiter Medical System (SOMS) into orbit for use by two specially trained crew members (Crew Medical Officers) for each mission. The crew members can use the kits to deal with both minor and major illnesses/injuries that might typically be seen in a small emergency center. These include suturing lacerations, giving injections, using intravenous fluids, antibiotics, and other medications, and diagnosing and treating a variety of medical events during spaceflight.
How do astronauts in space go to the bathroom and take care of their personal hygiene?
Astronauts brush their teeth just like they do on Earth. There is no shower on the Shuttle, so astronauts must make do with sponge baths until they return home. Each Space Shuttle has a toilet that can be used by both men and women. Designed to be as much as possible like those on Earth, the units use flowing air instead of water to move waste through the system. Solid wastes are compressed and stored onboard, and then removed after landing. Wastewater is vented to space, although future systems may recycle it. The air is filtered to remove odor and bacteria and then returned to the cabin.
Is there a danger of dehydration in space?
The humidity onboard the shuttle is set at a low 20 percent so that crew members try to drink more water than on Earth to avoid dehydration.
Does the crew all sleep at the same time, or does someone have to stay awake to monitor systems?
During a single-shift flight crew members all sleep at the same time. Mission control watch over the them very carefully and have ways of waking them up via alarms. They can set off an alarm up here in the shuttle that will certainly get us out of the rack and get us looking at what they want us to look at. So we do all sleep at the same time but we're being watched over very carefully.
Is the crew still asleep at the time of the wake up call?
Some crew members like to set their alarms a few minutes early so that they are alert by wakeup. It's a nice time to be awake since the ground is not going to call them unless there's an emergency. For those still sleeping at wakeup, the wakeup music usually does a pretty good job of clearing the cobwebs.
Does weightlessness affect the crew's dreams?
STS-82 mission specialist spacewalker Greg Harbaugh:
"I believe that weightlessness does affect the types of dreams I have experienced. I tried to make a point of remembering what I was dreaming about last night and I do remember some images of not walking but floating, so I would have to say that the impression on my body and on my memory of floating in space that I've done up to this point does remanifest itself through my dreams. I have not had, that I can recall, the experience on the ground of dreaming of being weightless, although ever since I was a young boy I dreamed that I could fly. I know that's a fairly common experience, but perhaps that was anticipation of what I'm doing now, and perhaps now when I dream of flying when I'm on Earth, maybe that's reaching back into these memories."