The Sideshow

How to live in zero gravity: Take a tour of the International Space Station

The Sideshow

Sure, we know there’s no screaming in space. But there’s also no flushing. And no hair brushing.

Pay attention, because these are things you too can learn by watching former International Space Station Commander Sunita Williams walk—or should we say, float her way—through a typical morning in space.

Spoiler alert: Zero gravity is a pain in the neck, and other places.

First, Williams is a perfect host for a video tour: She’s a veteran space traveler with 195 days of space flight—the longest time in space for a woman. And she lived on the space station for four months.

As the astronaut explains on the NASA video, sleeping on the space station is very different from snoozing in your comfy bed on planet Earth. Instead, there are sleep pods and sleeping bags—and it doesn’t matter if your bed is located upside down or sideways. Your body won’t know the difference. Each cubby also comes equipped with a docked laptop and personal items, like clothes.

Once you get up, it’s time for the morning routine. Tooth brushing isn’t all that foreign—and yes, you still do it, even so far from home. The toothpaste is “sticky,” as Williams explains, and stays on the brush. Even the water cooperates from a tube, although some escapes into a bubble that Williams catches and swallows.

And, as Williams shows with her cloud of hair floating anywhere but on her head, every day is a bad hair day. "See how much better the brush makes my hair look?" She laughs, as she runs a brush through her hair, which continues to stand on end. She adds, "I'm just joking. It still stands up straight." Hair styling seems like a pointless exercise.

However, there are some activities that can’t be skipped, and the toilet is one of them. Or rather, two of them. Suffice to say, suction is involved, as is good aim, in the “orbital outhouse,” as she calls it. We’ll let you watch to get the details.

Easier to digest: details of making and eating breakfast. The space station kitchen is stocked with American favorites like cereal, eggs and bread—some freeze dried and needing water, others ready to eat. Japanese and Russian foods are also available: It is, after all, an international space station.

Williams confides that the package labeled “snacks” is the candy stash. The scientist also admits to a Fluffernutter habit, and the space station actually keeps a jar of Fluff on hand so she can indulge (stored in a zip-locked compartment, natch).

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