NASA astronaut Scott Kelly is just days away from completing one of the longest space missions in history. After 340 days aboard the International Space Station, Kelly will leave the micro-gravity environment of space, and return to Earth on March 1.
Kelly's mission was to help scientists examine the effects of long-term space travel. By seeing how Kelly adjusted to a year in space, his mission will help NASA prepare for manned missions deeper into space, possibly to Mars.
According to NASA, here are seven ways Kelly will need to readjust to life on Earth. The following was prepared by NASA:
Water’s surface tension doesn’t have to fight gravity in the space station, allowing water molecules to stick together as they float. When you watch water molecules float in space, you can imagine why astronauts use washcloths to keep clean in space rather than a shower!
The ISSpresso machine on the space station was sent up in 2015 and works similarly to a normal espresso machine. Astronauts hook up two bags, one full of water and the other empty. The ISSpresso machine dispenses the espresso into the empty bag that astronauts then drink from with a straw.
Sidenote: Although they usually drink from a straw, there is this cool zero gravity coffee cup that not only makes drinking coffee a little more Earth-like but also acts as a capillary flow experiment.
Astronauts need to ensure their food doesn’t float away during mealtime. In addition, they don’t have a refrigerator, so their food is sent up preserved and reheated, similar to food you might take with you on a camping trip. Unlike on Earth, astronaut only get fresh fruits and vegetables when a cargo resupply ship arrives or when they can grow it themselves. Astronauts use Velcro to keep pouches close, and eat tortillas instead of bread because tortillas are less crumbly.
“Sleeping here is harder here in space than on a bed because the sleep position here is the same position throughout the day,” Kelly said during a Reddit AMA. “You don't ever get that sense of gratifying relaxation here that you do on Earth after a long day at work.” Before going on his mission Kelly said, “Goodbye bed. I’ll miss your silky smoothness.”
When gardening in space, there are a few things you need: plant pillows, wicks and LED lights which help deliver the water and light the plants need in the right amounts at the right time. This leads to successful lettuce and zinnia growth. But in a controlled environment, astronauts don’t have to worry about insects eating their plants’ leaves!
Going outside for a walk on Earth is relatively safe and easy, and most of us can wander outside for a ramble whenever we want. Going outside for a walk in space is hard and requires months of preparation and lots of hard work. In addition, getting into and out of the spacesuit that protects the astronauts in the vacuum of space takes several hours. Stepping out of a spacecraft is inherently dangerous so every move is carefully planned and practiced for months on the ground in advance of an excursion in space.