How they live on the ISS: exercise, hygiene and weightless scales

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How they live on the ISS: exercise, hygiene and weightless scales
How they live on the ISS: exercise, hygiene and weightless scales

Flying into space now means only one thing - to visit the ISS: so far this is our only extraterrestrial home. It's not easy to live in it. We figure out how the cosmic life is arranged, from the washbasin to the sleeping compartment.



Morning on the ISS starts at 6:00 GMT. In Moscow at this moment it is nine in the morning. The sun may or may not illuminate the station at this time: every 24 hours, the inhabitants of the ISS see 16 sunsets and 16 sunrises. An hour and a half after the ascent - communication with the Earth, but in the meantime you need to have time to quickly check the station's systems and put yourself in order. Purity

In the washroom, ISS workers store packages with the most personal: toothbrushes, creams, razors. They wash here the same way as on Earth, only the water does not flow from the tap, but is stored in a plastic bag with a tube.

Despite the absence of gravity, the water released from the vessel does not scatter throughout the compartment. Surface tension holds a small amount of water on the astronauts' skin, so it can be rubbed all over the body and mixed with shower gel, which is what astronauts do. Then the remaining water is collected with a towel, which is left hanging near the ventilation window. The temperature at the station is maintained at room temperature, so that the water evaporates rather quickly and is sucked into the ventilation shaft. There the moisture condenses again, is removed for cleaning and is soon ready for use again.


All perfumery and cosmetic products here are the same as earthly, in an earthly container. The male part of the crew shaves with both machine tools and electric razors. This is done near the hood so that the cut hair does not scatter around the entire compartment, and then the hood is cleaned with a vacuum cleaner. Also, with a vacuum cleaner, nails are cut.

Some female astronauts have long hair, but keeping it clean at the station isn't such a big deal. To wash their hair, everyone except those who prefer to shave baldly, like the Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano, use an indelible shampoo. First, water from a tube is applied to the hair, then shampoo, and then wipe the head with a towel.


They also brush their teeth quite commonly: some have electric toothbrushes, some have ordinary ones. After cleaning, the remaining paste and water are gently spit out into the towel. Although some people prefer to swallow the paste. It is not harmful at all and saves towels.

Towels - like the rest of the astronauts' clothes - are never put into the washing machine. There is too little water on the ISS to organize the laundry. All dirty things are placed in containers and placed in a cargo ship: they leave the ISS and, together with the spent truck, burn up in the atmosphere. But space suits are sometimes sent to Earth, where they are washed and repaired. It turns out that suits for spacewalk are the only part of the space wardrobe that is washed from time to time.


How to keep track of weight where there is no weight? On the ISS, there are as many as two devices for measuring body weight, because it is very important for doctors on Earth to know if the crew members are losing weight too quickly due to loss of muscle mass (there is no talk of excess weight: firstly, astronauts and cosmonauts have 2, 5 hours a day doing physical education, and secondly, their food is balanced and not too plentiful).

The first device, the Soviet IM-01M (mass meter), works as a harmonic oscillator, recalculating the oscillation period of the platform on the spring into the mass of the body on the platform. The second device, the American Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device (SLAMMD), is based on Newton's second law of force versus mass and acceleration.The astronaut stands on the long arm of the instrument, the base of which is fixed on a platform supported by two springs. By measuring the acceleration of the body, the device calculates the mass.


The accuracy of the domestic device is up to 200 grams, the American one is about the same, but on average their readings differ by 1, 1 kilogram. None of them gives great accuracy in absolute measurement of mass, but it makes it possible to record the relative fluctuations of the astronauts' body mass.


Unlike the mass of astronauts, the schedule of which is the concern of an entire department of doctors on Earth, body temperature is of little interest to anyone. Astronauts rarely get sick - there is nowhere to get the flu virus or Escherichia coli at the station, it is also difficult to get hypothermic, on the contrary, it is always a little warmer than normal there. In case you need to measure the temperature, there are BTE thermal sensors in spacesuits - both Russian and American.

And two years ago, during the Thermolab experiment, the entire crew of the station had to wear round temperature sensors on their foreheads.

Then German scientists studied the effect of weightlessness on circadian rhythms, and body temperature is one of the most obvious indicators of the work of the "biological clock". At the end of the experiment, the thermometers on the ISS again disappeared.



Everyone knows that astronauts eat soup from tubes and dilute dry mashed potatoes with water. The main thing is that there are no crumbs and drops, because they scatter throughout the station and can get into the power grid or thin devices, and this is dangerous. That is why the astronauts did not have, for example, fresh bread for a long time, they got along with biscuits made from special flour, and not out of empty fears. In 1965, American astronauts Virgil Grissom and John Young, the crew of the Gemini 3 mission, secretly smuggled a sandwich aboard the spacecraft. Crumbs flew all over the place and nearly caused a short circuit. Since then, bread in space has been told "No", allowing only tortillas.

But in 2018, bread will appear on the ISS. For this, German engineers have developed a stove, a prototype of which is already working.


The secret is in a special dough that makes bread that does not give crumbs. A special design of the stove was also required: it should work from a weak network, its power should not exceed 250 watts (electric ovens with a capacity of 2-5 kilowatts, that is, ten times more, work in earthly kitchens). The surface of the instruments used on the ISS should not be hotter than 45 ° C, so the engineers use non-heat-conducting materials, and create a weak vacuum inside the stove: this way the water will boil at a lower temperature, and there will be no need to heat the bun to the usual 200-250 degrees.


The lack of gravity is slowly killing the muscles of the ISS crew members, and it would kill them completely, if not for the daily training, which astronauts do not miss even on weekends. In addition to muscle atrophy, microgravity also threatens the loss of bone substance, which on Earth can result in their increased fragility. The symptoms of post-cosmic bone thinning are similar to earthly osteoporosis and are very unpleasant. Additional calcium in the diet and, again, physical education help to fight it.

There are four sports equipment on the ISS: two treadmills, an exercise bike and a vacuum barbell simulator.


The first sports equipment on the ISS was the TVIS (Treadmill Vibration Isolation System) treadmill. It moves the same way as a regular earth treadmill, but unlike those installed in your gym, TVIS has a "harness" - a system of adjustable belts and springs. Before the start of the run, the astronaut attaches the harness to the belt of a special vest. It keeps the astronaut near the track and creates a load, and not a small one. The force that has to be applied to move the track from its place with the belts fastened is equivalent to a weight of 40-100 kilograms, and a 2.5 kg step allows astronauts to exert a load equivalent to or greater than their own weight on Earth. According to astronauts, running in harness is like running on Earth with a heavy backpack on your back.


TVIS was separated from the station hull by a system of shock absorbers and gyroscopes so that the vibration generated by the running legs would not shake other ISS systems. The main sources of vibration and shocks at the station are the compressors of the ventilation system and gyrodynes (mechanisms that allow for heading alignment). The engineers did not want to add to this the vibration of sports equipment, so they wrapped TVIS tightly and regularly measured the vibration in the Russian segment of the station during training on the track. The vibration data, along with the data on the runs (duration, intensity and heartbeat of the astronauts) were sent to Earth, where they were analyzed by doctors and engineers. In 2001, an expert committee recognized the TVIS design defects and decided to replace it, but this did not happen immediately.

In 2009, when the ISS crew was increased from 3 to 6 people, a second treadmill was also needed. Then NASA developed the Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill (COLBERT). Just like the TVIS, it generates load with an adjustable spring harness. But its electronics are more advanced: astronauts can create individual training programs (for example, interval running) and set the time for a run - in a word, COLBERT is capable of everything that modern treadmills are capable of.


In contrast to the rather energy-intensive TVIS vibration suppression system, COLBERT is equipped with a new system that does not require power. It consists of springs and associated shock absorbers suspended on a special reinforced bracket.

For two voyages of a cargo ship in 2012–2013. the third track was delivered to the station - the Russian BD-2, which replaced TVIS. RSC Energia engineers, like their American colleagues who designed COLBERT, abandoned the idea of ​​gyroscopes and suspended the track on springs and shock absorbers.

Now both tracks at the station allow speeds from 2, 6 to 20 km / h, and one session can last at least four hours, so astronauts sometimes even run a marathon. The first to do this was the American Sunita Williams, and a few years after her - the British Tim Peak.


In addition to running, on the ISS you can exercise on the Cycle Ergometer with Vibration Isolation and Stabilization System (CEVIS) exercise bike. True, it does not look very much like a bicycle: there are only pedals and a saddle. The steering wheel turned into handles sticking out of the wall; to hold on to them, you have to sit with your back straight, like on a chair. All this is to save space: the ISS is already cramped.


When the foot presses down on the pedals, it drives the planetary transmission gears, which transmit rotation to the flywheel. The load is regulated by the tension of the belt that brakes the flywheel. And for the exercises to be beneficial, here, as on the treadmill, you need to at least "get out of the minus" - set a load equivalent to that required for similar exercises on Earth.

Power training

Treadmills and a bicycle are good, but apart from cardio loads, astronauts need strength training: without them, it is impossible to maintain muscle mass. Therefore, the ISS has an Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) - a device that replaces the barbell and cable simulator. Here you can squeeze the barbell with an effort equivalent to pressing 270 kilograms on Earth. For a cable simulator, the maximum load is an analogue of 113 kg.


But if terrestrial athletes only need to put on a few heavy pancakes on the bar or attach more lead plates to the cable, on the ISS they have to simulate weight using flywheels and vacuum cylinders, the pistons of which prevent the flywheel from rotating.

Space washroom

The question of how to set up a toilet in the absence of gravity has a long history. It began with the first long space missions and has not been completed to this day. Today, the ISS has two toilets, both of which are domestically produced (the second NASA bought from Roscosmos for its segment of the station in 2007).

Solid waste is collected in a twenty-liter aluminum container and transferred to temporary storage through a vacuum system.They, along with other debris and dirty clothes, are taken by a space truck and burned up in the atmosphere.

But astronauts cannot afford to throw out urine: after all, this is a source of water, the delivery of which into orbit is very expensive. Over a year, more than 700 liters of clean water is released from the urine of astronauts, suitable for drinking, washing and cooking.

To collect urine, astronauts have special devices - receivers with long corrugated tubes, different in design for women and men. Through the pipe, the liquid is directed to primary (vacuum) distillation. Not only urine gets there, but also moisture condensed in the ventilation system from other sources - the respiration of astronauts, laboratory animals and plants, and human sweat.

Water is purified in three stages: first, dust and large particles of pollutants are removed and evaporated, separating the solid precipitate of salts, then the liquid is passed through semipermeable membranes, disinfected with a specially selected cocktail of reagents and again filtered through the membrane. There are two systems for liquid purification at the station - Russian and American. Astronauts claim that the water that comes out tastes like bottled water on Earth.


The lights out at the station are not strict, but both Houston and Moscow recommend observing the regime, therefore, as a rule, cosmonauts go to bed at half past nine GMT. Sleep in clothes, sleeping bags and noise-canceling headphones: the ventilation makes a lot of noise, so it's not only difficult to sleep here without headphones, but also harmful to the ears. Just like on Earth, astronauts have dreams, including terrible ones; many complain about lack of sleep.

Life on the ISS is not sugar, but a constant struggle with the lack of gravity, inconvenience and awkwardness. The station is crowded, noisy and always stuffy. You need to save food and water, exhaust yourself with exercises every day, work hard. There is little entertainment: slow Internet, books, films and music brought with them, sometimes amateur performances. But there is not a single interview or video in which a person who has visited the ISS complains about everyday inconveniences. The cosmos redeems everything.

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