As we consider the prospect of space vacations (the 600th ticket was recently sold for Virgin Galactic’s SpaceshipTwo), luxury space hotels, space colonies, and other commercial enterprises that will bring humans to space in the near future, we need to recognize that the biologists are as important as the engineers.
Not only do we need to physically get humans to space, we also need to keep them alive, or at the very least ensure that their lives aren’t completely miserable.
After all, human space travel today is a luxury experience. Supercouples like Brangelina and celebrities like Ashton Kutcher are paying big bucks. The idea of traveling to space may seem like fun right now, but few people will want to lay out $200,000 in the future if SpaceshipTwo’s maiden voyage becomes the sub-orbital equivalent of the Carnival Cruise “poop cruise.”
That’s why at NASA “the waste management engineers are incredibly important to the entire mission,” says Mary Roach. Roach is the author of Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, a fascinating and humorous look at what happens to the human body in space.
In the video below, Roach describes how space explorers are basically sent back to kindergarten, having to re-learn how to go to the bathroom and how to eat.
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