Two NASA Astronauts Spill Their Guts About Vomiting In Space

Wednesday, 27 June 2018 - 12:12PM
Space
NASA
Astrophysics
Wednesday, 27 June 2018 - 12:12PM
Two NASA Astronauts Spill Their Guts About Vomiting In Space
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Image Credit: Composite from Pixabay images
Between SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, and now Asgardia (the first space nation!), low orbit seems like it's poised to become the next Disneyland for anyone who can afford it. Unfortunately, space travel is still as dangerous as ever, even for those who have spent years training to go there, and former astronaut Dr. Anna Fisher has recently come forward to remind the public that stepping onto a spacecraft is not the same as signing up for a cruise.

"It's not like riding a commercial aircraft, not at all, and I can see all these problems with people up there and throwing up and messing up somebody's flight that they paid $250,000 for," Dr. Fisher told The Telegraph. Describing the feeling of going through liftoff, Fisher said the switch from 3Gs of acceleration to sudden weightlessness can be abrupt enough to induce vomiting: "I could feel the blood rushing and in 30 seconds I was going 'uh oh, I am going to be one of the ones who is not going to feel good?' and I was extremely grateful that I had eaten absolutely nothing for breakfast. I was lucky I never threw up, because if you think throwing up is bad here on the ground it's really bad in space."

Fisher isn't alone in her caveat emptor to aspiring space travelers who haven't considered the gastrointestinal distress of weightlessness and bladder-squashing G-forces. In 2013, astronaut Chris Hadfield, then commander of the ISS, described some of the chores, challenges, and less-pleasant effects of space travel in a series of videos.

"When we first get to space, we feel sick," the space-borne Hadfield told a group of students on Earth.

Opening quote
"Your body is really confused. You're dizzy. Your lunch is floating around in your belly because you're floating. What you see doesn't match what you feel, and you want to throw up."
Closing quote


"Think about what happens on Earth when you throw up," Hadfield continued, producing a space barfbag. "You throw up and you have a bag of something horrible and then you throw it away, but if I have this bag, what am I going to do with it? This bag is going to stay with me in space for months, so we want a really good barf bag."



Apart from sickness, there are much longer and more dramatic health risks to entering microgravity, says Smith Johnson, NASA's flight surgeon: "It's a dangerous business. The bottom line is every system of the body is affected by microgravity, whether it's kidney stones, receptor touch, fluid redistribution, inner ear changes, losing ten times your bone mass. We also get ten times the radiation. Sometimes astronauts come down and look like a boneless chicken...[Your spine elongates] in space, and [flattens] out so back pain can be a problem for weeks to months up in space but when you return and think you can rollerblading three days after you've landed and you end up in a ditch."

Studies on returning astronauts have found that they are five times more likely to end up with cardiovascular disease and generally come back with temporarily weakened immune systems, allowing them to become easily infected by common diseases. Cosmic radiation is also a major risk—exposure to high enough levels can cause long-term cancer or even kill crews while still in space.

Things to consider before you buy your Virgin Galactic ticket.




 
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