Life on the International Space Station

Last November, Mike Hopkins and Victor (Ike) Glover traveled to a wonderful travel destination. It was 250 miles away … straight up.

Twenty-seven hours later, their SpaceX capsule docked at the International Space Station.

As Hopkins and Glover neared the end of their six-month mission, NASA gave “Sunday Morning” correspondent David Pogue a wonderful opportunity: a live video chat with Mike and Ike in space!

“You indicated there really isn’t an up or down,” Pogue said. “So, is there any reason one of you couldn’t turn his head? The blood isn’t rushing to your head, Victor?”

“Not at all,” laughed Glover. “Not at all. In fact, it doesn’t seem strange to me until I look at Hopper and say, ‘Why is Hopper upside down?'”

Victor Glover (left) and Mike Hopkins on the International Space Station.  Theoretically none of them are upside down.  / Credit: CBS News

Victor Glover (left) and Mike Hopkins on the International Space Station. Theoretically none of them are upside down. / Credit: CBS News

Glover showed how to walk around, pushing surfaces with his hands (“… and here he goes!”).

The Space Station is not as futuristic as movie spaceships. It’s about the length of a football field. The United States, Russia, Canada, Europe and Japan began building it in 1998, and they never really stopped.

Exterior view of the International Space Station.  / Credit: NASA

Exterior view of the International Space Station. / Credit: NASA

The bedrooms aren’t much bigger than phone booths – basically a bag to hold you in place, and a pair of laptops. “We have them on the sides, but we also have them on the ceiling, and we have them on the deck,” Hopkins said.

Each astronaut spends two hours a day working. There is a weight machine (with electron tubes instead of weights), a treadmill with cords and an exercise bike. “Because we’re in space, we don’t need to sit down when we’re using this bike, so there’s no seat,” Glover said.

There’s a reason for all this exercise: A zero-weight life makes a real number on your body.

Pogue asked, “Are there long-lasting effects that don’t come back after you’ve been on Earth for a while?”

“It may be, absolutely,” Hopkins replied. “It’s hard to prevent some bone loss. But after my last mission, I lost about 2.5% bone density. And it took years for it to somehow come back.”

Hopkins and Glover also mastered the finer points of eating in space, showing how to make – and eat – peanut butter and jelly.

And because your inner second-grade student probably wants to know, Hopkins explained, “And so, a few things about our toilet: You can see there’s a can here. And this can, there’s solid garbage collected there. And then the urine is collected in this hose. Because we collect the urine separately, we can recycle that urine. “

Yes, the astronauts recycle their piss. In space water is a valuable resource.

The station recently celebrated 20 years of continuously busy.

When asked what he missed most during his time up there, Glover replied, “I miss my family. I just can’t wait to see my kids at the airport or wherever I meet them first.”

Hopkins added, “I’ll also tell you one of the things I miss the most: weather. Up here it never changes. It’s always 70 °, there’s no wind, there’s no rain, there’s no snow, there’s no humidity. I mean, it’s just the same. “

“Hearing Hopper say ‘rain’ reminded me: I miss the shower!” Glover laughed.

On the other hand, former astronaut Peggy Whitson sometimes misses space. She told Pogue, “After my first flight, I went back to Earth and I lay on the bed, threw away the blankets and just made the lightest push on the bed, and waited to float to the bathroom. And I was like, oh mine, it will take a lot more work to get there than that! “

Whitson spent more time up there than any American, much of it as the head of the space station – a total of 665 days in space. “That’s the equivalent of a flight to Mars, isn’t it?” asked Pogue.

“Yes,” she said. “You could come to Mars and come back in 665 days. And so, I’m proving it’s feasible.”

Twenty years of space station science has given hundreds of advances in fields such as weather, astronomy, biology, materials, and especially medicine – Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease, and so on.

“Salmonella gives you food poisoning,” Whitson said. “It actually became more virulent in space, and then they could actually develop a vaccine for that.”

Worms, mice and rats are also often on board, to help NASA study the long-term effects of zero gravity. They seem to like it well.

“By understanding the physics of how things work without gravity, we sometimes come up with ways to better understand how things work in gravity,” Whitson said.

But for the people on board, seeing our home from space is always spectacular. Whitson said, “You look out the window, and you see planet Earth, and you look at it, and you see how thin this atmosphere is and how delicate it looks. If you happen to be near a window and you fly over the Sahara Desert , the whole room will get this golden glow – a peach, orange glow.

The best views of the space station are in what is called the Dome.

“The Dome is the window that looks down on Earth, and it’s a pretty incredible view,” Hopkins said. “And it really never gets old.”

Astronaut Peggy Whitson looks at the Earth through the space station's image windows.  / Credit: NASA

Astronaut Peggy Whitson looks at the Earth through the space station’s image windows. / Credit: NASA

For more information:

International Space Station (NASA)

A story produced by Alan Golds. Editor: Ed Givnish.

Net extra:

Check out David Pogue’s full conversation with astronauts Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins:

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