9. Astronauts Drink Recycled Urine
Access to fresh water can be a problem in space. American astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS) get most of their water by recycling and recovering it using the Water Recovery System, which NASA introduced in 2009. Just as the name implies, the Water Recovery System allows astronauts to recover most of the water they lose through sweat and urine or while brushing or making coffee.
American astronauts aren’t just recycling their own urine. They’re also recycling the urine of cosmonauts, since the Russians have refused to recycle their own pee. According to Layne Carter, NASA’s water subsystem manager for the ISS, the recycled water tastes just like bottled water.
8. Astronauts Lose Muscle And Bone Mass And Suffer From Premature Aging
The microgravity environment of space causes premature aging in astronauts. Their skin ages faster, becomes drier and thinner, and is prone to itching. As if that isn’t enough, their bones and muscles become weaker. Astronauts lose one percent of their muscle mass and as much as two percent of their bone mass with every month that they spend in space. A four- to six-month trip to the International Space Station would lead to the loss of about 11 percent of the mass of the hip bone.
Even astronauts’ arteries aren’t spared. They become stiffer, as would be expected in people 20 or 30 years older. This makes astronauts susceptible to heart problems and stroke. Canadian astronaut Robert Thirsk suffered weakness, fragile bones, and lack of balance after spending six months in space. He said he felt like a senior citizen by the time he returned to Earth. Premature aging is now recognized as one of the side effects of space travel. It remains unpreventable, although astronauts can reduce its effect by exercising for two hours each day.