Tue. Dec 10th, 2019

The discomforts of traveling to the Moon | Science

Compared to the capsules used previously (the Mercury Y Gemini), the Apollo they were almost palatial. At least, the astronauts could release their seat belts, float around the cabin, and even somersault. Only four years earlier, the two occupants of the Gemini 6 they had had to suffer 15 days locked up in a cubicle the size of a small car – a Smart, for example – without being able to leave their seats. Neither to eat, nor to sleep, not even to attend to their physiological needs.

The menus had also improved. Far away from the time of food packed in tubes like toothpaste. The astronauts of Apollo They had a variety of dishes selected according to their tastes.

To save weight, all food on board was in a dehydrated and vacuum packed form. Or cut into portions that could be taken in a spoonful. Turkey in sauce, shrimp cocktail (Aldrin's favorite), spaghetti, chocolate cake …

Another thing were the spartan menus to consume once on the Moon: Chicken soup, stew, dried fruit and various kinds of juices. And in case the astronauts wanted to "chop" something between meals, they had bread and ham salad (this one was available in a tube to spread it easily on the toast).

Edwin E. Aldrin, inside the lunar module.

Edwin E. Aldrin, inside the lunar module.

All the dishes were in plastic bags equipped with a nozzle to adjust the spout of a water dispensing gun. Cold or hot, at ease. The contents had to be mixed for three minutes and then cut off one end of the bag and suck it directly through the mouth.

On board of the Apollo no drinking water was shipped. All that the astronauts consumed was a byproduct of fuel cells in which electricity was generated by reacting hydrogen and oxygen. The result was a liquid as innocuous as tasteless, close to distilled water but, yes, full of gas bubbles.

He tried everything imaginable to eliminate the annoying bubbles: Press the plastic bags to confine them at one end; or centrifuge them; or use filters … Everything was useless. The astronauts suffered gas in the stomach during the entire trip. Only later was a solution found, using silver and palladium catalysts that absorbed the gases quite efficiently.

Preparing and ingesting food was a relatively quick task; the opposite process, no. All the astronauts, without exception, hated the waste disposal system, especially solids. Going belly in weightlessness could take three quarters of an hour of preparations: Open the flight suit, select a plastic adhesive bag, adapt it to the buttocks and use it trusting that it would have been well attached … something that did not always happen .

It is legendary the episode of the crew of the Apollo 10, who while flying over the hidden side discovered a floating mass of unmistakable appearance. After a brief eye inspection none of the three accepted his paternity. Apart from the disgust it caused, such a waste was dangerous because it could end up stuck on the control panel or sneak into any corner of the ship's equipment.

Once used, the astronauts had to take a germicidal pill in each bag of feces and knead its contents well. Another unpopular procedure. The package was kept in an airtight box, in the confidence that its contents would not ferment and produce gases that could burst it. If this happened, the compartment had a simple alarm system: A valve that opened when the pressure exceeded a certain limit and spread the odor throughout the cabin.

The handling of urine was simpler. A hose provided with an interchangeable adapter for each astronaut. The liquid was expelled directly to the outside through a valve and a discharge tube. As in space the urine could freeze and clog the exit nozzle, it was heated. And to ensure a good heat flow, it was coated with the best available conductor: A thin layer of gold.

Vomiting was another very real danger. Approximately half of the astronauts suffered nausea and dizziness during their first hours in space, with the remains of their last meal floating inside the stomach. The arcades could suddenly happen. The thing could be serious since during the launching and initial phases of the flight, it was mandatory to wear the "fish tank" helmet.

Weightlessness can play other tricks. Sweat, for example. In the absence of weight, it accumulates on the skin, without completely evaporating. During the program Gemini, several astronauts had to make great efforts to evolve through space, which resulted in arrhythmias, stress and intense sweating. In the case of Eugene Cernan, co-pilot of the Gemini 9, the sweat accumulated in the eyes and fogged the visor in such a way that he had to return to the interior of the ship gropingly.

(tagsToTranslate) discomfort (t) travel (t) moon (t) eat (t) drink (t) do (t) need (t) astronaut (t) step (t) satellite

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