11 Basic Things That Are Difficult to Do in Space (And How Astronauts Do Them)

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It’s not easy being an astronaut: Not only are astronauts responsible for maintaining a vessel that’s rocketing through space, but even normal, everyday tasks become a challenge when you’re in orbit. After seeing this list of 11 basic activities that require special in-space protocol, you’ll never take your Earthly lifestyle for granted again.

1. Sleeping 

Tossing and turning in your sleep isn’t so problematic when you have gravity holding you down.  But in orbit, astronauts tether themselves into sleeping bags attached to the wall, floor, or ceiling to prevent them from flying around the cabin mid-snooze.

2. Eating Bread 

Say goodbye to your avocado toast. Bread isn’t allowed in space—the crumbs go everywhere—so specially packaged tortillas are astronauts’ best option for carbo-loading.

3. Eating Veggies 

In space, vegetables like spinach come in vacuum-sealed packaging. To make it edible, astronauts attach it to a water distributor and fill the bag until the water transforms the dry brick of spinach into textured food.

4. Brushing Your Teeth 

A little fluoride can’t kill you, which is lucky considering swallowing your used toothpaste is just another part of an astronaut’s daily hygiene routine. To rinse their toothbrushes after a cleaning, astronauts suck a bit of water into their mouths and then spit it back onto the toothbrush.

5. Washing Your Hands 

In space, water comes pre-soaped in a special pouch of “no rinse body bath.” Astronauts squirt a dollop of soapy water out of the pouch through a straw; without gravity, the “ball” of water floats in the air. Astronauts trap the weightless liquid with their hands and lather up, then dry off with a towel.

6.  Shaving and Cutting Your Hair 

No one wants to see hair flying around a cabin. In order to get a haircut, astronauts use a hair shaver attached to a vacuum that sucks up all the hair trimmings.

7.  Clipping Your Nails 

To avoid unintentionally poking someone’s eyes out, astronauts have to clip their nails over a vent so the nail debris is immediately disposed of.

8.  Crying 

If astronauts are overcome with the weepies, there’s no way to hide it. Tears ball up around the eyes until you wipe them away.

9. Drinking Coffee 

Water’s a key ingredient in coffee drinks, but pouring coffee grounds into boiling water while in microgravity is a recipe for disaster. A new espresso machine that uses capsules of grounds was developed specially for orbiting astronauts.

10.  Showering 

Imagine being stuck in the space station with smelly astronauts. In order to clean themselves, astronauts use pre-mixed soapy water and a washcloth. It’s quick and efficient, plus requires no running water.

11. Using the Restroom 

Believe it or not, before going into space, astronauts complete a toilet training program. There are two different bathroom mechanisms, each designed for a specific bodily function. When nature calls, astronauts use a specially designed toilet seat (for solid waste) and a liquid waste vacuum tube with different sized funnels for men and women.

What’s more difficult than any of these? Getting to space in the first place. Visit Boeing.com to learn about the advancements that make spaceflight possible.

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