This is what it feels like to be in a spacesuit
Those of us who are curious about space and things that be outside our tiny little home planet must have wondered every now and then what it exactly feels like to be wearing one of those bulky spacesuits.
Well, we can only imagine and, at the most take the words of those who have actually been fortunate enough to travel in space. To know better, though, we have to understand what a spacesuit actually is.
What is a spacesuit?
A spacesuit is technically called an extravehicular mobility unit or EMU. NASA has a very easy explanation for what a spacesuit is. A spacesuit is, in very simple terms, a one-person spacecraft. A fully powered spacesuit can keep astronauts safe from extreme temperatures, pressures and minor space debris. It also provides oxygen supply for well over eight hours.
Getting into a spacesuit
If you think that you can put on a spacesuit just like your old sweatshirt, you can’t be more wrong. Just wearing a spacesuit may take well over three hours. What’s more, every spacesuit ever built is custom designed. So, you can’t possibly use your friend’s (duh!) spacesuit because you left yours at home.
To get into a spacesuit, you require a full-health check-up and a no-objection certificate from an authorized medical officer. That may sound a little farfetched but when you consider that over 30% of even well trained astronauts suffer from claustrophobia in spacesuits, it makes sense.
What does it feel like?
Just being in a spacesuit wouldn’t feel that much different at the beginning. The real fun (and challenge) is when you experience zero gravity space.
The first thing would be to learn to breathe. The technique of breathing that astronauts use is much different than how we breathe on earth. Shallow breathing cycles and never letting your heart rate go up are the two keys to making the available oxygen last longer.
The next immediate hurdle is to communicate. You cannot talk to anyone who doesn’t have the matching radio sets. So, when you are in space, you can talk to only a handful of people who have the ability to listen to you and talk back.
If that wasn’t hard enough, the next challenge is to eat. Astronauts in outer space have the luxury of two highly nutritious energy bars that they can eat during emergency. Most astronauts don’t eat these bars unless they really need to because even a little misplaced bite leaves all the crumbs floating right in front of their eyes. There is also an emergency in-suit drinking bag (IDB) of water that contains 1.9 litres of ultra-pure water. In addition, when you are in a spacesuit, you are required to wear a high-tech diaper called maximum absorption garment (MAG) – for obvious reasons.
Moving around in a spacesuit is also not that straightforward. You need to be able to anticipate your steps and your moves before actually going ahead. You can’t use your fingers and thumbs to the full extent – so even grabbing a pencil requires training. At last, just like putting on a spacesuit, taking it off requires hours.
But the rewards come your way. Many astronauts have confessed that being in a spacesuit was one of the most thrilling and satisfying experiences of their lives.
After all, only a few people get to be in spacesuits.