Exploring Space: What Do Astronauts Need to Survive?

NASA scientists understand that for humans to travel through space, astronauts must have certain basic needs met. Oxygen, food, water and rest are essential for survival, but meeting these needs in space is much more complicated than on Earth. Gases from space cannot sustain human life, so astronauts must take everything they need with them. These items are known as “inputs” and can include food, water and oxygen.

Space exploration allows us to prove or refute scientific theories developed on Earth. Astronauts need spacesuits, clothing, hygiene items, sleeping bags and flight tools to survive in space and return safely to Earth. The space shuttle is designed to provide astronauts with oxygen, adequate temperatures and conditions that allow for life in space. Exploring space is an opportunity to discover new worlds and create advanced technologies, while working together toward a larger goal.

Suits protect astronauts from space dust and radiation that is very high in space. The pants have pockets so astronauts can store items that they wear constantly so they don't float around the space shuttle. Foods are chosen based on their nutritional value and their applicability for use in space. Many innovations in fields ranging from metals and alloys to biology and medicine are the result of space exploration.

The team purchases the equipment, checks it, stores it in a specific way, and then transports it to the space shuttle. Astronauts may live in the space shuttle for several years; Peggy Whitson spent 665 days in space! They must be constantly equipped with food and other essential items. Unlike astronauts on the International Space Station, who change their clothes approximately every 10 days, space shuttle astronauts wear clothes for each day of the mission. Tools are adapted to space conditions so that astronauts can perform their tasks as easily as possible.

When astronauts perform a mission on a space shuttle, the space shuttle has all the equipment that astronauts will need during the mission. For example, a commercial infrared camera used to scan tiles for cracks was adapted to space conditions and is now used to find cracks.

Jeannie Eschenbrenner
Jeannie Eschenbrenner

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