Y’know how nobody ever wins a drawing? Well, I won a drawing! A NASA Social drawing. In July, I’m going to NASA in Houston for a conference on astronaut health, fitness and rehabilitation before, during, and after being in space. I’m gonna get to be part of demonstrations and everything, and despite spending way more money than prudent to go to a one-day conference, I am super-crazy-excited. If you know me well, you know that I want to work in outreach at NASA someday, and I feel like finally going there is my first step.
But putting my personal excitement aside (but not actually), I’m also excited to learn about astronaut health, because it’s interesting. On Earth, we use lots of muscles just to stand up or even sit. That means that we’re using those muscles all day, every day, even if we just spend the whole day in bed watching Law & Order. In space, because there is effectively no gravity for an astronaut, these muscle groups go unused. Also, the International Space Station, which is where all of the NASA astronauts are, is pretty small – there are six astronauts living there right now, and the space station is about the right size of a standard six-person home. It’s clearly and necessarily livable, but there’s not a whole lot of room to move around.
Astronauts do work out on the space station – about 2 to 3 hours a day – by using resistance exercises and strapping themselves in to treadmills, but it’s hard to replicate the experience of , as Clay Anderson says in this CNN article, “195 pounds smacking against the pavement every time you take a step,” so being in space has a pretty noticeable effect on which muscle groups are strongest, as well as decreasing bone density and causing lots of other potential physical effects that I know little about (but will probably learn about in a few weeks).
So. I find all of this stuff really interesting and am outrageously stoked to learn more about it and meet real-life astronauts and go to NASA and network with new people. And I’d like to offer my readers a little bit of that learning-excitement. If you send me a question by e-mail or by commenting on this post, I will do my best to ask it at the conference. If I can’t ask it at the conference, I’ll do some research and try to figure it out. That goes for anything, but especially this topic since I have a unique opportunity to ask experts.
I will post about the event. I will tweet about the event (@DownHereonEarth). I will take pictures at the event. I am settled in at home, so I’ll be back to posting regularly. Thank you for your patience, and thank you in advance for your questions!