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CURIOSITY FEATURE: The More You Know Edition - 10 Fun facts about Space

May 3, 2017

Discover with us 10 curious facts about life in space. There is still a lot to explore and we would like to share with you some funny facts we have found out about life beyond Earth.

 

1. HOW DO YOU WRITE IN SPACE?

Traditional pens like the ones we use here on Earth don’t work well in space, and pencils release fragments of wood, rubber, and graphite that can catch fire, conduct electricity, and injury the eyes of astronauts in microgravity. In 1965, the Fisher Pen Company – an American private firm – patented a pen that could write underwater, in a microgravity environment, and even in icy or roasting conditions. However, if the temperature is too high, the ink turned green instead of its normal blue. Fisher Pen Company spent one million dollars to develop this marvel of technology, and then it offered it to NASA for free as a contribution to the national effort to reach the Moon before the Soviets. Afterwards, the space pen was used on the Shuttle, the Soviet Mir space station, and the ISS. Currently, Fisher has a wide product portfolio of space pens and if you want one you can just buy it at their website. 

 

 Fisher Space Pen

 

2. DO YOU LIKE ONE DIRECTION?

In their video “Drag Me Down” they go through astronaut training at Johnson Space Center, and leave for a space mission onboard an Orion Spacecraft. Despite the collaboration with NASA, the video doesn’t feature any actual space footage, only computer animation. The first, and so far only, music video shoot entirely in space is a rendition of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity", performed and produced in May 2013 by commander Chris Hadfield. It features scenes of Hadfield singing while floating around inside the International Space Station with his guitar, interleaved with a montage of original time-lapse footage shoot from the International Space Station. So even if no rockstar has ever become an astronaut, we had at least one astronaut who became a true rockstar.

 

A rendition of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" by Chris Hadfield

Source: Chris Hadfield YouTube Channel

 

3. WHAT IS THE REAL COLOR OF THE SUN?

Yellow, you would say? While the Earth’s atmosphere between the sun and our eyes makes it seem yellow, the sun is white. The sunlight is a radiation composed by all visible colors, and using a prism we can separate the bands of the spectrum: yellow, orange, red, green, blue, indigo and violet.  

 

The sun

 

4. DO YOU LIKE THE SUNRISE SO MUCH YOU WISH YOU COULD SEE IT MORE THAN ONCE A DAY? 

Then it is time to consider a career as an astronaut, because from the International Space Station (ISS) you can enjoy 16 sunrises and 16 sunsets a day!

The ISS travels at roughly 27,700 km/hour on a 354 km altitude, so it takes about 92 minutes to circle the Earth. That means a sunrise/sunset every 45 minutes, for a total of 16 of each every 24 hours.

 

 Sunrise from Space

 

5. CAN YOU CRY IN SPACE?

Only if you get hurt really bad! However, the lack of gravity will make it trickier than you would expect. Here on Earth, tears fall towards the ground, as Newton commands. In microgravity, tears stick to themselves and to your skin as a liquid ball held together by their surface tension. And if you are too desperate to stop, you may literally drown in your own tears.

 

Chris Hadfield demonstrates what happens to tears if they start 'falling' in Space

Source: VideoFromSpace YouTube Channel

 

6. HOW DO ASTRONAUTS GO TO THE BATHROOM? 

This is arguably the most popular question asked by kids curious about space. Imagine an astronaut using a regular toilet in microgravity, and flushing it as we do here on Earth. To avoid this disgusting scenario, human spacecraft are equipped with a different kind of toilet that flushes using flowing air instead of water. Space toilets are unisex, and feature a urinal for the liquid waste and a commode to hold the solid waste. On the International Space Station (ISS) there is even a special water treatment plant that recycles liquid wastes transforming those into drinking water, so you can turn today’s coffee in tomorrow’s coffee.

 

 International Space Station toilet tour

Source: ESA YouTube Channel

 

7. CAN ASTRONAUTS EAT PIZZA IN SPACE?

NASA made sure that they could by awarding a grant to BeeHex, an American Start-up that is developing a versatile pizza-enabled food 3D printer. The purpose of this invention is to enable astronauts to produce enjoyable food and bring with them familiar aspects of life on Earth during long-term space missions.

 

D3 Pizza Printing

BeeHex, Inc. 3D Printing

 

8. HOW LONG CAN WE SURVIVE UNPROTECTED IN SPACE?

Without a space suit or any sort of protection, a human will remain conscious for about 10 to 15 seconds, and survive without injury for about half a minute. Holding your breath will not help because the air would be sucked out of your lungs, damaging them. While no man has ever been exposed to vacuum willingly, it happened at least once by accident. On December 14, 1966, NASA spacesuit technician and test subject Jim LeBlanc entered a vacuum chamber wearing an early Moon suit prototype for a routine test. All of a sudden, his pressurization hose disconnected, and the pressure inside his suit dropped from 3.8 psi to 0.1 psi in 10 seconds. The chamber was brought back to atmospheric pressure in little more than a minute, and LeBlanc survived the accident without permanent damage.

 

 Astronaut in space

Source: Pexels

 

9. WHY PHYSICAL ACTIVITY IS SO IMPORTANT IN SPACE? 

When in orbit, physical activity is crucial. In microgravity bones and muscles do not have to support the weight of astronauts’ bodies. Over time, they become lazy: muscles lose mass, bones lose density, and the cardiovascular system loses the ability to pump blood in standard gravity environment. As they say, “Use it or lose it”. Astronauts exercise up to two hours a day to neutralize these effects by running on special treadmills, lifting weights with special machines, and biking on a stationary bicycle. Because of that, they usually return to Earth with more muscle mass. 

 

Joseph Acaba using an ergometer

Credits: NASA

 

10. HOW BIG IS THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION (ISS)? 

It has the size of a Football field, roughly 108m x 73m, and weights approximately 450 tons (408 000kg). It is the largest spacecraft ever built and it is also the world’s most expensive object (US $150 billion). 

 

The International Space Station

Credits: NASA 

 

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