Travel in Space
Concept: Challenges in Space
- Space is the region outside the atmosphere of Earth. It is different from the atmosphere we live in.
- No sounds can be heard in space because of the absence of air.
- The gravity of Earth cannot be felt there, which makes walking, holding, eating, and every other activity difficult.
- So, one can say that space's external environment differs from Earth's.
Let us now look at how certain things on Earth differ in space—
|On the Earth||In space|
|Air||Present||No air, some gases are present|
|Pressure/vacuum||Presence of an atmosphere with normal pressure||No atmosphere; hence, called a vacuum|
|Sound||Sounds can be heard||No sounds are heard|
|Temperature||Normal temperature with fluctuations||Highly fluctuating temperatures|
|Day and night||Normal 12 hours of day and night each||It depends on the rotation of the spacecraft|
- The force by which Earth pulls everything towards itself is called gravity or gravitational force.
- The gravitational force cannot be felt in space.
- Due to the absence of gravity, astronauts face the following situations—
- They experience weightlessness.
- They keep on floating.
- Patting someone may throw the person to a far distance.
- They need to communicate via actions.
- They cannot eat their food normally.
- Before going into space, astronauts need to practice living in space in an artificially created environment.
Life in space:
- Proper breathing conditions are created inside the spacecraft, enabling astronauts to breathe normally.
- While going out for the spacewalk, they must carry oxygen cylinders for breathing.
- In International Space Station (ISS), where there are different compartments for different purposes, astronauts traverse (by floating) from one place to another like a fish swimming in water.
- Eating and drinking in space:
- Food cannot be normally consumed in space.
- Everything starts floating if served on plates due to the absence of gravity.
- Hence, food is packed in sealed packets as a thick paste and consumed by sucking through pipes.
- These packets are arranged in special trays.
- Spilling water in space changes water into bubbles that keep floating around.
- Sound waves need a medium to travel.
- The absence of air in space does not give the sound a medium to travel; hence, no sound is heard even if one screams.
- The suits of the astronauts are fitted with a radio that enables them to speak and hear.
- Vacuum and zero gravity forced scientists to think out of the box to make a completely new method for defecation and urination.
- Regular flushing or pouring the water into a toilet would not work in space, as everything would start floating around.
- Astronauts must use a small disc-like toilet equipped with a powerful vacuum suction pump.
- Faeces and urine are sucked separately and stored until the spacecraft lands on the Earth.
Lack of Facilities in Space:
- Calling a mechanic or a doctor in an emergency in space is not something one can do.
- Although they get guidance from the control base on Earth, most of the time, the space crew is on its own in any situation.
- The space crew needs to be an all-rounder in everything, but at the same time, each one has to be a specialist in some tasks.
- Kalpana Chawla was a mission specialist who used to control the robotic arm of the spacecraft.
- In 322 days of an extended stay in space, Sunita Williams performed four spacewalks for 29 hours and 17 minutes for repair and maintenance works of different types of equipment.
Challenges in the space station:
- A confined and limited area of a space station in outer space is a difficult place to work and stay.
- To save space in the space stations and reduce unwanted, the space stations are designed judiciously.
- Astronauts recycle many things, including urine. Water and harmful salts from the urine are separated by a special system that provides potable water for reuse.
- Similarly, humidity and moisture from the air are collected and used to generate water.
- Oxygen is generated by electrolysing water.
- Garbage, including empty food packets, etc., is stored properly.
- The air in the space stations and the special suits of astronauts are rich in oxygen. So, the astronauts become more prone to UV rays, leading to several diseases like cancer.
Effects on the body in space:
- Muscles and bones become weak due to the absence of gravity.
- The UV rays of the sun are not filtered due to the absence of the atmosphere. So, the astronauts become more prone to exposure to UV rays, which leads to several diseases like cancer.
Electrolysing: Separating the oxygen and hydrogen atoms from the water using an electric current.
UV rays: UV stands for ultra-violet. These are invisible, harmful rays coming from the sun.
Did You Know?
- Pouring salt and pepper on food are prohibited in space to avoid getting those in the eyes.
- A spacesuit is made of many layers of material and weighs more than 100 kilograms (on Earth). It protects them from extreme temperatures and harmful radiation and maintains proper pressure.
- A Russian spacecraft Soyuz while docked to the ISS, fired its engines so aggressively that the spacecraft accidentally pushed the ISS out of orbit!