12.6.1 Text 12C Living Aboard the Space Shuttle and the ISS

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We often see the cosmonauts carry out their complicated work in space, but what do they do in their off-duty hours? What do they eat, where do they sleep?One of the main features of the Shuttle is the relatively low forces of gravity during launch and reentry. These are about 3 g, that is within the limits that can be withstood by people.

Its living accommodation is relatively comfortable. The crew cabin is 71.5 m. There are two floors inside the cabin. On the top level, the commander and pilot monitor and control sophisticated equipment. Behind their seats is a work area where the crew can carry out experiments.The bottom level is the living area. It contains facilities for sleeping, eating and waste disposal.

Living in such a kind of cabin requires only ordinary clothing. Air pressure is the same as the Earth’s at sea level. This air is made of 80 % nitrogen and 20 % oxygen. The air is cleaner than the Earth’s. Temperature can be regulated between 16 and 32 °C.

The Shuttle meals are eaten in a small dining area consisting of a table and restraints (ограничители) which function as chairs while eating in zero-gravity. Meals are served in a special tray which separates different food containers and keeps them from floating around in the weightless cabin. Most foods can be eaten with ordinary spoons and forks as long as there are no sudden starts and stops.

Just as on Earth recreation and sleep are important to good health in space. Different games, books and cassette-recorders to listen to music are available. In zero-gravity there is no «up» position and the cosmonaut is oriented in the sleeping bag as if he or she were sleeping up. Now beds are built into the walls with an individual light, communications, fan, sound suppression, blanket and sheets. They even have pillows.

Experiences on the space shuttle have helped prepare astronauts for life aboard the International Space Station. Let’s imagine the life at the station in several years. Life-support systems on the ISS can supply cleaner air, purer water, better food and more sanitary toilet facilities than on the space shuttle. Life aboard the station may not be easy, but it is significantly healthier and more pleasant than in the past, allowing astronauts to focus on the scientific research and station maintenance that occupy them for about 9 hours a day.

The kitchen on the station, for the first time in space history, has refrigerators and freezers. It may not sound like much, but it is a giant step forward. For the first 30 years in space, all food was kept at room temperature. Only now, in the 21st century, can refrigerator allow NASA to supply milk to help with bone loss in space flight. A glass of nice cold milk was asked for years. And the refrigerator proved to be an easier solution than a lot of experiments to make good powdered (порошковое) milk for a number of years.

Later in the day, thanks to another kitchen appliance, cosmonauts will eat a frozen dinner just like the ones sold in supermarkets. The combination convection/microwave oven automatically thaws (размораживать) your food (using heat), than heats it with microwaves (just as they do on Earth). The refrigerator, freezer, and oven mean that astronauts eat a healthier diet. The shuttle food was low in fiber. «The ISS food can overcome that with salads, fruit, vegetables, apples, oranges, etc.,» a space expert had predicted. Now, with these food delivered by the space shuttle a few times a year, you no longer have to take special tablets.

There is no dishwasher in the kitchen. Instead, you wash your magnetic silverware (столовые приборы) with antiseptic towelettes (салфетка). It does not seem very hygienic, but the shuttle astronauts just had to lick their silverware clean.

The empty food containers will be either ejected into space to burn up on re-entry to the atmosphere or returned to Earth on the shuttle.

The next step in life support will be a completely closed air- and-food cycle, with plants grown in space. Plants and microorganisms could even help remove contaminants from the water supply. It is that sort of research that will be necessary if people are ever to establish settlements far beyond Earth.

Biological approaches to supplying food, water, and air could not only save power aboard the station, but could also reduce the number of resupply trips required. May be some day astronauts will have fresh bread on the station. But even with today’s frozen dinners, they already spend 4 hours a day on meals and hygiene. Exercise takes 2 hours more a day. That leaves them just an hour of free time for the simple pleasures of life in space: The view of Earth through the window. A letter e-mailed from their family. Microwave popcorn with a movie. And the friendship of the crew members with whom they share this tiny world.


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