The two people scheduled to travel around the moon next year with the SpaceX program may experience some extreme unpleasantness during their journey, including vomiting, claustrophobia, and the constant need to urinate.
There’s no doubt that space travel comes with risks, but experts have been quick to emphasize that it can also be extremely uncomfortable.
For starters, there’s the matter of throwing up. Remember in Apollo 13 when Bill Paxton vomits into zero gravity shortly after liftoff? Apparently that scene was very accurately depicted. That’s because zero gravity throws off the inner ear instruments, confusing both orientation and balance.
“Like every single astronaut who goes into space, they’re going to get … very bad motion sickness,” Daniel Grant of the Centre for Altitude Space and Extreme Environment Medicine in London told AFP.
In addition, weightlessness can lead to a puffy face, thinner legs, and the constant urge to pee. There’s also the risk of claustrophobic freak-outs and disturbed sleep patterns.
Of course the dangers go beyond mere annoyances. When you’re thousands of kilometres from Earth, a small technical problem or human error could spell disaster. There’s a chance that something will go wrong at virtually every stage of travel with no one there to help patch things up. That being said, experts agree that space travel is not what it was during the Apollo missions.
“The technology is even better than it was 45 years ago,” John Logdsdon, former director of the Space Policy Institute at the George Washington University, told the AFP.
One of the biggest risks people might not know about is space radiation. The BBC reports that radiation levels on Earth are around 2.4mSv. At a nuclear power station, they’re closer to 20mSv. But at the International Space Station, radiation levels can reach 200mSv. If you move beyond the International Space Station and toward interplanetary travel, the radiation levels can reach 600mSv. According to researchers, cancer becomes likely around 100mSv, so spaceships and spacesuits are designed to protect astronauts from these dangerous rays.
Radiation levels can also spike when the sun periodically ejects a mass of protons into space, something known as a solar particle event. These are rare but always possible, so spaceships are outfitted with shelters to protect them from such an event.
Basically, space travel is terrifying and dangerous, but it’s also a fabulous adventure. There’s no doubt that whoever the lucky two “private citizens” heading to the moon are, they are willing to take the risks in exchange for a trip of a lifetime.