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How Do You Go to the Bathroom in Space?

How Do You Go to the Bathroom in Space?

3.5 2
by William R. Pogue, John Glenn (Introduction), Sidney Harris (Illustrator)

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Have you ever wondered what it's really like for an astronaut in outer space? From the exciting moments to the day-to-day details, from the serious to the humorous, you'll find answers to every question you've ever had about living in space!

What does it feel like to be weightless? Would a sneeze propel you backward? What happens to your body in space? And, most


Have you ever wondered what it's really like for an astronaut in outer space? From the exciting moments to the day-to-day details, from the serious to the humorous, you'll find answers to every question you've ever had about living in space!

What does it feel like to be weightless? Would a sneeze propel you backward? What happens to your body in space? And, most importantly, how do you go to the bathroom in space?

Find out the answers from the astronaut who for more than a decade held the world record for the number of days spent living in space!

To take advantage of the renewed interest in space travel, thanks to the success of Packing for Mars, this re-release of the bestseller (with over a quarter million copies in print) features a fresh look, dozens of authentic NASA photographs, and an introduction by John Glenn.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Fun to browse… Readers will enjoy satisfying their curiosity about life in space through this accessible title.” —VOYA
How does a spacecraft get heated? Do things taste and smell the same in space? The answers to these and many other questions about life in space can be found in this fun and educational resource. A revised edition, it contains inquiries addressed to the author, a former astronaut, about the international space station and other recent space program developments. Beginning with personal queries for the author such as "How did you shave?" the title suddenly immerses the reader in general and technical space questions, such as "What causes oxygen erosion on the Shuttle?" Fun to browse, some organizational changes would make the book easier to navigate. No table of contents is provided and the appendix listing is obscurely hidden and without page numbers. Contact information and additional reference lists with URLs would be well served to have "freshness dates." Nevertheless the index is well organized, with each topic pointing to a specific question number. Some questions are crossreferenced when appropriate. Readers will enjoy satisfying their curiosity about life in space through this accessible title. Index. Illus. Photos. Further Reading. Appendix. VOYA CODES: 2Q 2P M J S (Better editing or work by the author might have warranted a 3Q; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 1999, Tor, Ages 12 to 18, 192p, $11.95 Trade pb. Reviewer: Joyce W. Yen

Product Details

Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.81(w) x 7.96(h) x 0.63(d)
1130L (what's this?)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

How do you go to the bathroom in space?

By William R. Pogue

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 1985 William R. Pogue
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8125-4910-2


1. How old are you?

I was born in 1930. I was forty-three years old when our mission launched to visit Skylab and I celebrated my forty-fourth birthday while in space.

2. What is your academic background?

I have a Bachelor of Science degree in secondary education and a Master of Science degree in mathematics, and I taught undergraduate mathematics at the Air Force Academy.

3. Are you a graduate of a service academy?

No, I attended a civilian college and received my commission through the Air Force aviation cadet program during the Korean conflict.

4. Which branch of the military (service) were you in? How long?

I was in the Air Force for twenty-five years, nine of which were spent with NASA as an astronaut.

5. What kind of airplanes have you flown?

Over fifty types and models of American and British aircraft, mostly fighter aircraft.

6. What kind of airplane did you fly in Korea?

The F-84G, a fighter-bomber.

7. When did you fly with the Thunderbirds? What airplane did you fly with the aerobatic team? What position?

I flew with the Thunderbirds, the Air Force aerobatic team, from 1955 to 1957. I flew as solo pilot in the F-84F and F-100C, and for over a year, also in the F-100C, I was slot pilot in the diamond formation.

8. Which do you think was riskier, flying with the Thunderbirds or going into space?

Flying with the Thunderbirds was probably riskier, but I never thought of it as being dangerous. The most hazardous flying I ever did was instructing students in aerial gunnery training.

9. Which group of astronauts were you in? When were you selected to be an astronaut? When did you leave the space program?

I was in the fifth group of astronauts selected in 1966 and left the space program in September, 1977. I wanted to become an astronaut because it seemed to be the highest goal attainable for a pilot as well as being interesting and exciting work.

10. What were the names of the other men on your mission?

Colonel Gerald (Jerry) P. Carr, a Marine Corps fighter pilot, was the Commander and Dr. Edward (Ed) G. Gibson was the Scientist Pilot.

11. What do you think was Skylab's greatest contribution?

The greatest immediate contribution was the demonstration of man's ability to live and work in weightlessness for long periods (up to three months). The studies of the Earth and sun provided information for long-term investigations, and their full contribution may not be known for many years.

12. Aren't you really thrown back at liftoff? (There is a widespread belief that the astronauts feel their strongest force effect from the engine thrust at the time of liftoff.)

The force on the astronaut at liftoff isn't as great as commonly believed. In the older Saturn boosters, the astronauts were pressed back in the couches at just a bit more than their normal body weight; an astronaut weighing 150 pounds, for instance, would feel like he weighed 165 pounds. On the Space Shuttle, the same astronaut would be pressed back into the seat with a force of about 225 pounds. This is much higher liftoff acceleration than felt on the older boosters, but it isn't nearly the force felt later on during boost. On Saturn boosters (rockets), the astronauts felt the most force just as the first stage of the rocket had burned up most of its fuel — about four times heavier than normal. The Space Shuttle thrust is controlled so that the most force the astronauts feel is about three times their normal weight.

13. What does it feel like in space?

The first thing you notice when you go into space is an absence of pressure on your body. You may feel lightheaded or giddy. After a half-hour or so, your face may feel flushed and you might feel a throbbing in your neck. As you move about, you will notice a strong sensation of spinning or tumbling every time you turn or nod your head. This makes some people uncomfortable or nauseated. You will also have a very "full feeling" or stuffiness in your head. You may get a bad headache after a few hours, and this too may make you feel sick at your stomach.

Most all of these symptoms will go away in a few days. The head congestion or stuffiness may bother you off and on during your entire time in space. Throughout the space flight, you will feel a powerful sensation of tumbling or spinning every time you move your head too fast.

There are two things you can do on Earth to get a reasonable idea what it feels like in space. The general floating feeling is quite similar to the effect of relaxing in a swimming pool. The head stuffiness experienced in space is much like the uncomfortable feeling that one gets when hanging upside-down from gymnast bars. Normally, it is uncomfortable to stay in this position beyond a minute or two because of the full feeling in the head caused by the upside-down position.

14. How long does it take to get used to space?

It takes the body about three days to adjust to the weightlessness. You will become accustomed to working in space in a few hours, but you will be learning better ways to do things throughout the mission. Even though I got sick the first evening in space, the following day, which was our first full day in orbit, I worked fourteen hours.

15. When sailors go to sea, they gradually get their "sea legs." Did you get "space legs" after being in space for a while?

We did, quite literally, develop space legs. We called it "bird legs," because our legs became thinner and thinner as the weeks passed. The calves, in particular, became quite small. During the first few days in space, the legs become smaller because the muscles of the legs force blood and other fluids toward the upper part of the body, thus decreasing the girth measurement around the thighs and calves. In addition, muscle tissue is progressively lost due to insufficient exercise. These changes produce a "bird leg" effect.

16. What happened to your body in space?

We grew 1 ½ to 2 ¼ inches taller. This height increase was due to spinal lengthening and straightening. The discs between the vertebrae expand and compress slightly, depending on the weight the back is supporting. Even on Earth, an adult will be slightly taller (about one half-inch) in the morning than in the evening because the discs expand during sleep and compress as you walk or sit during the day. In weightlessness, the discs expand, but they don't compress again, because there is never weight on the spine. Our space suits were custom-tailored on Earth to our height and posture, thus, they fit tighter in space because of the height increase. Also, my waist measurement decreased by almost three inches, due to an upward shift of the internal organs in the body creating a "wasp waist" appearance.

In addition to the height increase and waist thinning, the posture changes slightly. Your relaxed body posture is semi-erect with the knees slightly bent, head raised or tilted backward, shoulders up (similar to a "shrug" gesture), and arms floating up and forward with your hands about chest height. Because of the raised position of the arms, it was an effort to work at waist height as you ordinarily do; you must continually force your arms down to waist level to do work on surfaces at "table height."

Also, you can't remain in a seated position without a belt to hold your body down in the seat. The body's tendency to resume the erect posture is quite hard to oppose by using the abdominal muscles. It's also very hard to bend forward. We found it much easier to pull our legs upward to lace our shoes rather than to bend down. Inability to bend forward easily also made it harder to get the upper part of the one-piece space suits over our heads. We had to duck our heads down and lift the top half of the suits up to get our heads through the neck ring.

17. Do you look the same in space?

No, facial appearance changes quite a lot. I was really surprised, if not shocked, the first time I looked in the mirror; I didn't look like me anymore. Loose flesh on the face rises, or floats, on the bone structure, giving a high-cheekboned or Oriental appearance. The face also looks a bit puffy, with bags under the eyes, especially during the first few days, and the veins in your forehead and neck appear swollen. After about three or four days, some of the facial puffiness (edema) and vein enlargement goes away, but your face still looks quite a bit different.

18. Did you gain or lose weight?

We lost about three or four pounds during the first four days of the mission. Then we gradually regained most of the loss, so that, by the end of the mission, we were just about back to our weight at launch.

Most of the early flight weight loss is caused by elimination (reduction) of body fluids. The fluid shift causes excessive fluids in the upper torso; the body senses this localized excess and reduces the total body fluid level through urination.

19. If you were weightless, how could you weigh yourself?

We really didn't weigh ourselves the same way we did on Earth because a spring or balance scale wouldn't work. However, we could determine body mass, and then convert this to an equivalent Earth weight, by sitting in a special chair that swung back and forth on springs. The time it took for each swing of the chair was measured and used by a computer to determine our body mass, or Earth weight. This device was called a Body Mass Measurement Device (BMMD).

I found the device mildly unpleasant because the metal was cold and we used it the first thing after waking up, while we were still in our underwear. The chair was actually more like a box, and we had to get in it with our knees doubled up under our chin. This jammed-up posture was required to reduce fluid slosh and internal organ movement in our bodies during the oscillations of the chair. This peculiar posture was necessary to get an accurate reading with the device.

20. Is it true that you lost a lot of calcium from your bones and that this may make long missions impossible?

This is partly correct. We did lose calcium from the bones, but it wasn't excessive. After Skylab, NASA doctors were worried that this loss might become bad enough on long space flights to cause serious harm to the skeletons of astronauts. Since then, the Russians have completed three space missions of six months each. They have indicated that the rate of calcium loss slows significantly or stops after four or five months. If this is correct, then calcium loss, which is similar to osteoporosis and also called bone mass loss or bone demineralization, will not limit the length of time people can stay in weightlessness. It appears that the calcium loss is similar to that experienced by bedrest patients on Earth. Such patients show a marked decrease in the rate of calcium loss after the first few months of being bedridden.

I have had no ill effects from this. Incidentally, the bone mass loss can not be balanced by taking mineral supplements. Mineral supplements are not used by the body to replace losses in the bones and can contribute to the development of kidney stones.

21. Do you get tired in space?

Yes, we did get tired in weightlessness. Heavy exercise left us with a comfortable tired feeling. We also experienced a psychological weariness from rushing and from mental pressure to keep on schedule. All astronauts on Skylab have reported a sort of overall tiredness, a fatigue or run-down feeling, that often occurred about three or four hours after eating. I called it "space crud." It's sort of like the down-and-out feeling you have when you're coming down with a bad cold or the flu. I still don't understand what caused this, but we learned very quickly that it was unwise to skip meals to save time. If we did, we would begin to feel bad and were much more likely to make a mistake.

I noticed one peculiar inconsistency about the space crud; I didn't develop it on space walks, even though I went for six to seven hours without eating or drinking. I don't know why the effects should be absent on space walks, unless it was because we enjoyed it so much that it helped to offset the occurrence of the symptoms.

22. Does your hair float out from your head?

Our hair was short enough that this wasn't a problem. But women astronauts might have a problem with this. It's so easy to get things snagged and tangled up in weightlessness that I wouldn't be surprised if women or men with long hair have to wear a hair covering to avoid a problem. Sally Ride, America's first woman in space, trimmed and curled her hair before flight. Based on her experience she feels that long hair would be difficult to manage in weightlessness.

Onboard movie photos taken on the Twelfth shuttle flight (mission 41D) show astronaut Judy Resnik's hairdo puffed and raised in back. In one scene her hair appears to cause another crewmember problems when they both try to use the same window to observe a satellite deployment.

23. How did you breathe? Was breathing any different?

The spacecraft is pressurized or filled with air; on Skylab space walks the space suit was inflated by a steady flow of air supplied through a long hose called an umbilical. The continuous flow made sure there was always fresh air in the suit. Suits used by Shuttle astronauts contain an oxygen supply in tanks attached to the back of the suit and the astronauts are not attached to the Shuttle by a hose or an umbilical.

Although we didn't notice any difference, tests made on Skylab showed we couldn't breathe as deeply. In weightlessness, there is a noticeable shift of the abdominal organs upward toward the rib cage. Apparently, this appears to be the main reason it was harder to take deep breaths.

24. How did you avoid high humidity from building up, due to respiration and evaporation from the body, in the air?

The air inside Skylab was circulated across cold metal surfaces where water vapor condensed and was then collected and transferred into a waste water tank. The atmosphere inside was usually quite dry.

25. What kind of soap did you use?

We used both bar and liquid soap (shampoo). It was similar to Neutragena. The bar soap had a slab of iron imbedded in it so it would stick to the magnetized surfaces in the bathroom.

26. What is warp (space warp)?

Space warp is the imaginary concept of science fiction writers. It is envisioned as a way of getting from one place to another without crossing the distance between them. At the present time, no one is able to achieve such a thing as space warp.

27. How did you get from one place to another?

In Skylab, we pulled ourselves along structural surfaces by using handholds (special hand grips or handles) or other parts of the spacecraft; we also shoved or pushed off from one position to float to the next location. When shoving off to float across a large empty volume, we went headfirst, feet-first, and also sideways — launching ourselves in a manner to keep from tumbling en route. We were usually able to arrive at the next location in the best position to grasp and hold fixtures. In small volumes, however, we had to be careful to avoid damage to the spacecraft when we moved around. Headfirst motion was the one used most often.

On space walks, transfer handholds were essential in getting from one position to the next. Foot restraints were located at all planned work stations so that the astronaut didn't have to hold on to something continuously in order to maintain his position. Transfer handholds were often similar to the rungs of a ladder and were spaced for moving hand-over-hand to travel between locations.

The term "space walk" is a popular name for what we called Extra Vehicular Activity or EVA. I tried to walk across a grid mesh surface by using a special pair of "mushrooms" I attached to the bottom of my shoes in place of the metal triangular cleats. Every time I stretched out my foot to take the next step, my foot just floated in the air and I had to exert effort to bend forward to get my foot down on the surface. It required a lot of extra work, so I took the mushrooms off and never used them again.

Space Shuttle astronauts also use handholds on space walks. On some flights, they will use a Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) which is actually a miniature spacecraft that can be flown free of the Shuttle Orbiter. The MMU will greatly increase the work capability of astronauts on space walks.

28. What kind of work did you do on Skylab?

We operated equipment and instruments for more than fifty experiments. The three principal experiments were performed throughout the mission and occupied a lot of time each day. We had a solar observatory for making observations of the sun, cameras and other instruments for studying the Earth, and equipment for several medical experiments to determine the long-term effects of weightlessness.

29. Was it hard work?

Some work tasks were very difficult, but most were routine and merely took adequate time. The hardest jobs were repair and maintenance tasks that involved a lot of physical force, such as pushing, pulling, or twisting.


Excerpted from How do you go to the bathroom in space? by William R. Pogue. Copyright © 1985 William R. Pogue. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

COLONEL WILLIAM R. POGUE flew for the USAF Thunderbirds and was a test pilot for both the United States Air Force and the British Royal Air Force before his selection as an astronaut in 1966. He served in the Support Crew of the Apollo 7 and Apollo 11 missions, and was the pilot for Skylab 4, the final Skylab mission. Until recently, he held the record for the longest time spent living in space: eighty-four days.

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How Do You Go to the Bathroom in Space 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was absolutely awesome. I've bought three copies already to give to my kids' teachers. They love it. Very practical answers to all of those questions that you'd like to ask an astronaut.