Dec 20, 2010
Allison Pope is a 7th grader at Patton Middle School. She submitted the following entry to the Museum’s ISS Downlink contest in order to win a seat at the question and answer session with astronauts on Jan. 19.
The International Space Station is a major and complicated advance in human technology. Some of the largest challenges astronauts face on the International Space Station, I believe, are everyday activities such as eating, sleeping and bathing. In micro-gravity things can get challenging. Well, NASA has thought of some ways to accomplish these activities without much effort from the astronauts.
One example is sleeping. On the International Space Station (ISS), the astronauts sleep in a wall-mounted sleeping beg that you van slip into and zip up. The bag is also equipped with arm restraints to prevent the astronaut’s arms from floating above their heads while they sleep. In microgravity there is no “up” and astronauts can sleep as comfortably vertically as horizontally.
Next, we encounter the problems of bathing and using the restroom. To keep the astronauts fresh and happy, they take sponge baths. Water droplets gloat around in weightlessness, creating a hazard for electrical equipment. To prevent this frome happening, water is obtained from a nozzle and, after washing; dirty water from the sponge is squeezed into an airflow system which conveys it to the ISS’s waste collection tank. When going to the restroom, this is how it works: The ISS astronauts use a toilet that operates very much like the one on Earth. A steady flow of air moves through the unit when it is in use, carrying the waste to a special container or into plastic bags. The container can be opened to a vacuum, which dries the water and solids.
Lastly, we have the issue of eating. This seems simple to you and me but can get tricky for people aboard the ISS. During a typical meal in space, a tray is used to hold the food containers. The tray can be attached to an astronaut’s lap by a strap or attached to a wall. The meal tray becomes the astronaut’s dinner plate and enables them to choose from several foods at once, just like a meal at home. The tray also holds the food packages in place and keeps them from floating away in the microgravity of space.
Many people wonder why the ISS isn’t built on earth. One of the biggest reasons is because the ISS is enormous and heavy and can only be built in the micro-gravity of space. Once completed, the dimensions of the International Space Station will be approximately 108.5 meters by 72.8 meters. The completed ISS will weigh around 450 tons. The shuttles that carry up the parts to the ISS can only hold around 32.5 tons for circular orbits up to 230 miles. The higher the orbit the less a shuttle can carry.
In conclusion, the ISS is a complicated and amazing advance in human technology. We have reached a point in our evolution where we have people living in space. By fulfilling their basic necessities such as sleeping, eating and bathing, we are able to study space in a new way.
Allison Pope's art submission to the ISS Downlink contest