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How astronauts deal with the annoying parts of being in space

Is there training for NASA or elsewhere for such things?

There are space station analogues and modules that will prepare you to handle things. Go see how you will do the so-called everyday things you will do in space. And when it comes to understanding how you’re going to do these things in space, there are parabolic flights you go on, where you experience weightlessness for 25 seconds.

But we never actually train without weights to do other things, like brushing our teeth. So you really have to figure it out, establish that connection from your zero-G training to real work and life in space. And I think most people make that transition pretty quickly. People will have to understand these things. I think once you visualize the environment you’re entering and you’ve gone through some zero-G training, then you’re going to have this thought exercise about how you do it in microgravity. And I think it’s the people who achieve that really quickly, because you’ve already done it somehow from visualization.

One of the reasons we talk about this is that Tide has just announced a new partnership with NASA develop and test a detergent that could be used to clean items in water-deficient environments. Astronauts could finally do their laundry in space. This seems like a trifle, but why is it important to astronauts and future space travel?

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We throw clothes into space because we don’t clean them. When we finally embark on future lunar or Martian missions, or one day when we’re even further away, we won’t be able to throw anything away. We will have to use everything again. And I think that’s critical for research. Washing clothes would look everyday, but that’s life. This is necessary for the future of research. Or we won’t have enough clothes to exercise, exercise, and get the job done.

There are plenty of new opportunities for the civilian population to go into space. How do you expect astronaut training to evolve and transform to accommodate these types of people? What could new technologies like VR do?

There is a company called the Star Harbor Space Academy that wants to have a Natural Buoyancy Laboratory to train people for space, along with zero G flights in airplanes, robotics, and even VR. I mean, what if you had a VR suit that gave you tactile sensations, smell, temperature – all the senses that have to excite you with what you experience as a space experience? It’s like if you walk into space and go out in this suit, open the door and feel the sun is there. That’s 250 degrees Fahrenheit, isn’t it? This immersive experience – which would be a great tool to help people in training.

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Do you have any main tips for civilians who will go on these missions?

Taking care of yourself before group care: take care of your things first, before you try to help someone else. Because what’s going to happen is that you have to go work with a robotic arm while someone is at the end or with tasks like that. But now you’re suddenly worried about “Hey, did I get my shirts back here? Did I get the right thing I needed? Did I do all my stuff?” So worry about your personal space, your equipment, your hygiene, all that stuff as fast as you can. And then if you can help someone, do it then.

The other thing is visualization. I would close my eyes and say, “Okay, I’m crossing from a spaceship through an opening through a space station. I rotate about 180 degrees … ”It’s similar to what we did while I was playing football: we would go through this whole paper exercise as I ran the route, caught the ball and made a touch. And you can do the same in space for something like robotic arm work: “I’m moving the translational arm control, and the payload is moving this way …” And I think that’s something I think civilians are coming, they should start working.

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