5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Space Travel
These days, everyone loves to travel. Plane fares are cheaper, hotels have better rates, and there are so many options to satisfy the wanderlust in you. So while you can potentially go to any place in the world and have so much to share about a country’s culture and sights, have you ever wondered what it’s like to go to the ultimate travel destination of all—space? At the recent History Con Philippines, a real live astronaut visited the country and shared his experiences about his time in space and some things you probably didn’t know about space travel.
Barry “Butch” Wilmore, a NASA astronaut and US Navy pilot, held a series of talks during the convention that gave people a taste of what it’s like to be in space. He was part of Expedition 41/42, as a member of the Soyuz TMA-14M space station crew. The Soyuz is the only series of spacecraft currently taking astronauts to space. This Russian spacecraft brings selected astronauts to the International Space Station, where they live and work on the station until another team takes over after a specified amount of time. Barry was in space from September 2014 to March 2015. He was commander of the International Space Station for the latter portion of the expedition.
Yes, meeting an astronaut is as cool as it sounds! We got to listen in to Barry talk about his time in space as well as the many projects companies and agencies are doing to advance space flight. Here are just some of the things we learned, even as we got starry-eyed (pun intended) from Barry’s incredible stories.
1It doesn’t take that long to go to space.
Yes, there is a ton of preparation in getting the rockets and the spacecraft ready. But when everything is said and done, it takes just nine minutes to get launched into the atmosphere then into low earth orbit. “But it’s a way cool nine minutes!” Barry exclaims. Imagine, it takes much longer to get from Quezon City to Makati and vice-versa!
2Astronauts perform a lot of experiments in space.
During Barry’s expedition, he and his team were tasked to study certain things while in space. This was especially useful when Barry lost a wrench and needed a spare. “You can’t take every spare part on a spacecraft, so to solve this, you print these parts in space,” he shares. “We’re working on 3D printing technology, and I was the first guy to use it in space. So we’re starting to learn those things.”
The idea behind having more robust systems to create things needed by astronauts is to ultimately be able to better sustain life in space.
3Today’s coffee is tomorrow’s coffee.
That statement seems a little confusing, doesn’t it? We were stumped too until Barry explained the reasoning behind it. Astronauts reuse everything. “You go into deep space? You can’t take air with you to last three years! You have to reuse everything.”
One particular example is how they filter water to make it usable again. “You drink coffee, you expel more coffee, you process coffee, you drink more coffee. That’s what we gotta do!” A water processing assembly filters urine to separate waste from the usable portion, which is then filtered further to allow astronauts to consume it again. “It is the best-tasting water I have ever had! I’m glad I wasn’t part of the taste test team when it was being processed though!” Barry quips.
4Astronauts’ bodies adapt to space.
“In space, there is no up, no left, no right. When you’re working, you need to use handrails to be able to move yourself around.” Barry explains that there are handrails in every portion of the space station so that astronauts can hold on to them with their hands or feet while they work. “In space, your body gets rid of skin flakes, including the calluses on your feet ‘cause you’re not walking. You don’t need them while you’re in space, so instead, you get calluses on your toes from where you grip onto the rails!” Pretty cool.
5Spacewalk is as cool as it sounds.
“I did four spacewalks, a total of 26 hours. And I can tell ya, there’s not one hour that went by that I didn’t think I cannot believe we do this! We stick humans in a one-man space capsule and we send them to space to work!” Barry exclaims during his talk.
Each suit costs $7 million. Yup, it’s that expensive! It has a jetpack that helps the astronaut get back to the space station in case they float away. Has Barry ever used the jetpack? Well, according to him, nobody’s ever had to use a jetpack because they’ve never messed up. Astronauts today do not have the same notoriety that astronauts did decades ago. “You don’t know our names,” Barry says. “But if you wanted to be famous as an astronaut, mess something up on a spacewalk. You’re gonna get famous real quick!”
The couple of hours we spent listening to Barry’s talk was really not enough to satisfy our incredible curiosity about what else is out there. After all, the reason why we travel is to explore new frontiers, and this guy is someone who has seen the ultimate view of Earth. Isn’t that food for thought the next time you take a trip?
DISCLOSURE: This post is brought to you by History Con Philippines. See you on the next one!