3...2...1...Blastoff! At some point during every child's upbringing, they dream of going into space. Our obsession follows us into adulthood when we want nothing more than to feel that jolt as we exit Earth's atmosphere to explore the great unknown (and then immediately kiss the ground upon return).
Thanks to advances in technology, those of us that may never make it into orbit are able to get a glimpse into the lives of astronauts during missions. They do broadcasts to answer questions and make silly videos - it sure does look like a good time with nothing weighing them down (gravity joke fully intended).
Being an astronaut isn't all fun and games, though. It's a super competitive process with extremely rigorous training protocols. It requires a lot of studying, involves a fair amount of waiting, and comes with a lengthy code of conduct. To top it off, there are a ton of rules that must be followed.
We found twenty-five crazy restrictions placed on astronauts that you won't believe. For example, they have to learn another language and exercise for hours each day. Plus, they have to figure out how to remain respectful of the people they work with because they basically live on top of their co-workers (no passive aggressive notes left by the dirty dishes here). Keep reading to see if you're cut out for the space program or would buckle under the pressure.
25 Must Be Able To Move A Two-Ton Object
Without gravity, astronauts in space can essentially move something the size of a car with a weight up to two-tons with a gentle nudge. According to Best Life, astronauts simulate their space-induced Hulk capabilities on Earth in an environment that is basically like an enormous air hockey table. This allows them to practice moving objects in a controlled manner and stopping them in motion completely.
As you might imagine, this is very useful training because two-ton objects slamming into people or other things is never good.
24 Must Be Tied Down To Sleep
Contrary to what you might think, astronauts are neither upright in a launch position nor floating freely throughout the cabin while catching zzzz's.
The lack of gravity in space is the same day or night, which means astronauts had to get creative to sleep, but still needed to be horizontal to avoid phantom pains. The answer, according to Best Life, was to zip into a sleeping bag that is tethered to the wall of the cabin.
A strap across the forehead is certainly one way to fix the head bob that gives you away when you fall asleep in meetings...
23 Must Be Able To Hold Back Tears
We all have the occasional bad day that results in at least a few tears being shed. You know, the type of day in which you trip down the stairs, spill coffee on your new coat, and miss the train by two seconds. Then, out of nowhere, you're sobbing in public.
While astronauts can probably relate, they cannot, however, let their emotions get the best of them because without gravity tears get stuck and turn into huge blobs. As reported by Best Life, that build-up in the tear ducts hurts a whole lot (which probably makes you want to cry more and worsens the issue).
22 Must Quit Drinking
While some international crews are little more lenient (we're not naming countries), according to Curiosity, the general rule is zero tolerance for alcohol in space. In theory, this makes sense as those operating a fast-moving transport device with others on board should likely be of a clear head.
However, the ban goes beyond alcohol and is extended to all bubbly beverages. According to Best Life, this is because the gas in carbonated drinks affects the body differently without gravity.
So long, sparkling water and Diet Coke!
21 Must Adjust To Several Sunrises Per Day
Light Sleepers and those with eyes that pop open at the first sign of sun need not apply.
On Earth, the sun rises and sets just once in a 24-hour period and for the most part (except when we were in college), that is how we are set to function. However, according to Best Life, astronauts will be subjected to up to sixteen sunrises in a 24-hour period due to the rate at which orbit occurs. They must retrain their brains accordingly to stay asleep and awake at the right times.
20 Must Be Willing To Spend An Entire Day Underwater
Though not related to the actual mission, individuals selected as candidates for the astronaut corps must successfully complete several underwater tasks before they can even move forward toward a possible mission.
In addition to making mechanical adjustments to replica space stations below the water's surface, they are also required to swim three-full lengths of an Olympic size pool without stopping. According to Best Life, this must be done while wearing the flight suit, the weight of which is a whopping 250 pounds.
19 Must Have A Strong Stomach
During training, candidates in the astronaut corps are subjected to a zero-gravity simulation device (the nickname of which should not be repeated here). This is meant to be less of a punishment and more of a preparation for months on end of zero gravity, the lack of which can often lead to feelings of stomach upset.
Each session in the zero-gravity simulator only lasts about one minute, but for someone who's stomach is flipping upside down that can feel like an eternity. To add to the misery, according to Best Life, during just one round of training the simulation can be repeated forty to sixty times.
18 Must Understand That Senses Of Smell And Taste Will Be Lost
Although improvements have been made to the culinary offerings in space (seriously, everything used to be dehydrated and covered in gelatin), the food is still pretty bland. That is less the fault of NASA's chef and more the result of astronauts losing their sense of smell and taste due to the changes in pressure.
However bad the food seems, astronauts still need to eat to keep their energy levels up. For this reason, the space station is well-stocked with hot sauce to give everything a more palatable kick.
17 Must Exercise (A Lot)
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station aren't just sitting up there looking back down at Earth and waving at us all, they're quite busy.
In addition to actual space exploration, studying, and equipment maintenance, they also have to exercise to combat the loss of muscle mass and bone density that zero-gravity produces. Cardio and strength training machines can be found in the space station's gym, an area that each astronaut must visit for at least two hours every day, according to NASA.
16 Must Learn Russian
Although the word "astronaut" derives from the Greek phrase for "space sailor", according to NASA, the language most useful in orbit is Russian.
The International Space Station uses Soyuz spacecrafts, the origin of which was the former Soviet Union. To that end, anyone on the space station must have a working knowledge of Russian. According to Best Life, astronauts go through an intensive Russian language course and sometimes even spend time with a Russian-speaking host family to hone their skills and ensure they are prepared to decipher instructions in that language.
15 Must Be Comfortable Operating Machines On Rugged Terrain
According to Best Life, an astronaut-in-training needs to be familiar with varying terrain should he or she be asked to perform tasks outside the space station.
Used as a desired location since the mission to the moon, NASA takes individuals to an area known as the "meteor crater" in Arizona. The ground is rocky and thus perfect for the astronauts to try their hand at complex drills and navigation.
Apparently, this location also houses a Subway sandwich chain, should terrain familiarization lead to hunger.
14 Must Keep Survival Training Skills Up To Date
According to Earth Sky, the International Space Station is roughly 250 miles above Earth. Some simple logic and math will tell us that this means nobody is going to come to the rescue very quickly should something go wrong.
To that end, astronauts need to be able to survive on their own. According to Best Life, part of astronaut training involves several days in a remote wilderness location. Additionally, they stay up to date on their CPR training while on board the space station.
13 Must Stay Calm Under Pressure
According to NASA, there are over eight miles of wire that make up the International Space Station's electrical circuit. There are an additional fifty computers controlling all the systems and more than 350,000 sensors to ensure the health and safety of the crew. All of that must be maintained by the astronauts on board (there's no IT department to call in).
If one of those sensors ceases to read data or a wire becomes loose, an alarm will sound or a light will flash. One of the astronauts needs to calmly figure out what needs attention and solve the problem (before the sound of the alarm drives everyone crazy).
12 Must Learn To Live In Very Cramped Quarters
The record for longest time in orbit by a human is 665 days, completed in 2017. While most astronauts don't stay onboard for anywhere near that long, even a few months is a lengthy period of time to be crammed into something the size of a football field with three to six of your closest friends.
According to NASA, the living and working space onboard the craft is broken into six separate spaces with designated areas for sleeping, working out, and using the restroom. The really tight squeeze comes during onboard repairs, as well as launch and re-entry when everyone is seated together.
11 Must Embrace Adventure And The Unknown
Although a few hundred people have visited the International Space Station over the years, it is far from being considered a highly trafficked destination. There is still a lot to be learned, which is part of what makes space exploration so fascinating.
On the flip side, it can also be one of the scariest parts because nobody knows for certain what you are headed into. Astronauts have to be very comfortable with the unknown and with not having all the answers. Above all, they need to be fueled by an adventurous spirit.
10 Must Subsist On Very Few Material Items And Comforts
Packing to go to space for any length of time isn't like packing for any trip you've ever taken. According to Forbes, the Space Shuttle Program allows each astronaut a mere twenty individual personal items with a net weight of just 1.5 pounds. That's basically like a small carry-on bag.
We can all probably learn something from astronauts when it comes to packing a reasonable amount (rather than the thirteen outfits and seven pairs of shoes we bring on weekend getaways).
9 Must Get A Grip (Literally)
In middle school, it was the class bully taking your lunch, but in space it is gravity. When your lunch floats away from you every time, you will learn quickly that you have to keep a hold of things or go hungry. If it gets too far away, it can disappear forever.
It's not just food that has a mind of its own, Wired did an entire story on objects that astronauts have dropped and permanently lost. The list of things floating around somewhere in space now includes a spatula, a tool bag, and a camera.
8 Must Say, "Houston, We Have A Problem" At Least Once
If the only reason you ever dreamed of becoming an astronaut was because Tom Hanks and Kevin Bacon did it in Apollo 13, you're not alone - we've all been there. NASA even plays into the popularity of the film and its famous saying on their webpage, announcing the arrival of updated podcasts as "Houston, we have a podcast". It's safe to say the phrase is here to stay.
Do us all a favor if you ever make it big time in space and say those magical words at least once (though hopefully there isn't really a problem).
7 Must Not Believe Everything That Is Seen
According to Business Insider, without gravity your eyes actually start to change shape due to a build up of pressure. This can cause vision problems in even those with perfect eyesight.
Coupled with a potentially ailing immune system and a couple days without any good sleep, an astronaut's mind may start to play tricks on them as they think they see things that aren't really there. Astronauts are cautioned about this phenomenon and know to ask a buddy for a second opinion before jumping to any conclusions.
6 Must Under No Circumstances Play With Fire (But Other Play Is Encouraged)
According to the Smithsonian, fire in space is much more unpredictable (and potentially more lethal) than it is on Earth. As easily as the flames could fizzle out, they can also combust into a huge fireball, which is why astronauts aren't allowed to play with matches.
They can, however, play other games to pass the time (anti-gravity leapfrog is a favorite). Additionally, according to Forbes, things like CDs and holiday decorations are allowed and encouraged as part of crew member support packages to boost morale.
5 Must Not Give Up Easily
There are many career paths one could choose to take that would be a whole lot easier than becoming an astronaut (probably just about every career would be easier).
According to astronaut testimonials, the job is extremely rewarding but certainly not for those who prefer to leave their work at work when they go home at night. There are barriers every day, making space exploration the farthest thing from a nine-to-five job and suitable only for people that never give up and see challenges as opportunities.
4 Must Observe General Office Etiquette (Including Grooming)
The International Space Station is technically an office, which means general office rules apply. Just like how you wouldn't stand in your co-worker's cubicle and lean over his or her shoulder while he or she works, you shouldn't do that on the space station. Astronauts are expected to respect each other's privacy when possible.
The big one, though, is personal hygiene. All the water on the space station was brought from Earth, according to NASA, so it's in pretty high demand (though they are working on water recycling systems). That said, there isn't enough to bathe regularly so damp washcloths with shampoo and body wash are the only way to stay clean (and fresh-smelling).
3 Must Wear The Same Thing Every day
One thing travelers in space don't have to worry about is what to wear. Not only are they not allowed to pack many of their own clothes, which instantly eliminates hours-long trips to the closet, their NASA-issued clothing all looks the same which means they don't have much else to change into (should I wear the red polo shirt with the khaki pants or the blue polo shirt with the khaki pants?).
According to Curiosity, astronauts can go months in the exact same outfit, though undergarments may be changed more frequently (but not much more frequently).
2 Must Clean Up The Shared Areas (Which Is Every Area)
It might sound overly dramatic, but one rogue crumb could essentially derail an entire mission.
According to Curiosity, tiny molecules of food can become lodged into expensive equipment used for scientific recordings or, worse yet, can clog vents that need to stay clear for proper flow of air. And, if you read the entry about why astronauts can't shed tears, you will understand that it would be quite awful for a crumb to get into someone's eye.
So, astronauts have to be extra vigilant when it comes to cleaning up after those midnight snack cravings.
1 Must Love Space
Following in the footsteps of brave astronauts of the past, new astronauts have big shoes to fill. As we've learned throughout this post, it takes a special person to become an astronaut. Among the physical qualities and character attributes that make someone cut out for the program, NASA says the most important thing is that you love space. If you don't really love it (like really, really love it), NASA says there are about 18,000 other applicants that would do anything to take your place.