Astronaut's life: no shower, sleep anywhere, cramped dinner table

Eight of a total of 13 astronauts from the International Space Station and space shuttle Endeavour enjoy a meal aboard the ISS.

With the crew aboard the International Space Station packing up Endeavour for its return flight to Earth, several astronauts reflected on life in zero-G.

Today marked the fifth and final spacewalk with a jumbo-sized crew. The station hosted 13 people, a record. And with so many bodies in such a tight space, how is space life different from back at home? Let's start with:

Can you get a good night's sleep?

"We sleep very well in space," says Canadian astronaut Julie Payette during a broadcast by NASA. "We have a sleeping bag each, and when you get into it you float in the sleeping bag. The sleeping bag floats in the module. So all you have to do is just attach it somewhere, which is a good idea by the way because during the night while your sleeping you might start drifting and end up somewhere you didn't intend to be in the first place."

How about a shower?

"Of course, we're in weightlessness, so a shower head with water dripping on top of your head would not work," Ms. Payette says. "We don't have a shower. We don't even have a faucet or a tap."

To work around the lack of gravity, the station uses a "squirt gun that shoots water and a wash cloth," reports "They also have a special rinse-less shampoo to keep their hair clean."

Where do you eat?

There are few places on the station that will fit 13 astronauts. The normal crew, six members, could all fit around a table. But now that seven more have joined up for this week of spacewalks, they need to get a little creative – such as Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata (pictured above) who made the most of the weightlessness and floated over the table.


One of the ISS's two toilets flooded last week. These $19-million Russian toilets have broken before, and mission managers worry that the growing list of guests will continue to overwhelm them. The docked shuttle Endeavour provided a temporary loo as astronauts repaired the toilet.

So, how does a space toilet work? Since liquids don’t behave well in zero-gravity, Russian engineers devised a series of suction tubes and fans.

How far from home?

The space station floats about 225 miles above Earth. That's nearly the distance from Boston to New York City. While in orbit, the station zooms around the globe at 17,500 m.p.h. That's fast enough to zip from Dallas to Paris in 17 minutes.


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