What is it really like to live in space? There’s no lack of material to help us imagine: movies, TV, novels, comics… It’s an inexhaustible source of fantasy and a multitude of different possibilities—some more outrageous than others—have flowed from it. The reality, though, wants for nothing compared to the most impressive scenes in cinema. On the contrary! The conditions of life in space are so extraordinary and so different from what we know on Earth that they are difficult to reproduce in fiction.
To prove it, the CNES invites you to come meet two ESA astronauts, Thomas Pesquet (by phone) and Jean-François Clervoy, along with the Manager of Human Spaceflight and Exploration at the CNES, François Spiero. Join us next Tuesday, March 17th at 7:30pm CET (11:30am PDT) at the café du Pont-neuf in Paris or on Twitter via the hashtag #CNEStweetup.
Promiscuity and Psychological Challenges
Despite this kind of funny and slightly absurd situation, the conditions of life in space are a real challenge, both physically and psychologically. Living in weightlessness, our points of reference gone, confinement, no space to move around, the distance from Earth… All this requires solid nerves, to say the least, and optimal physical fitness. The simplest daily activities take on a new dimension. Sleeping, eating, showering, going to the bathroom… “You need training for all of that and a period of adaptation,” says Jean-François Clervoy, “not to mention the risks associated with a trip to space. They are with us every time and you have to know how to deal with it.” In spite of these challenges, the astronaut readily admits that his stays in space felt too short. “I still feel like I didn’t have enough time to contemplate the Earth, to get to know its every peak and valley,” he confides.
View of the Earth from the International Space Station (Image: Kimika Ying / Flickr)
Astronauts: Rockstars of Space
Meeting an astronaut is a little like meeting a head of state or a rockstar. It doesn’t happen every day! There have only been 9 French astronauts in space since space exploration began. Among them, they have made 17 flights, most of which occurred before 1992. “Like everywhere else, there’s the crisis. Trips to space happen less often and are more expensive,” explains François Spiero, Manager of Human Spaceflight and Exploration at the CNES. Still, no need to worry about the future of the space sector. “The United States, Europe, China, Russia and Japan are now concentrating on traveling to the moon and to Mars,” says Spiero. The ultimate goal: a human mission to Mars! In the meantime, we need to prepare and the moon is a good training ground to meet the significant technical challenges of long-term, interplanetary space travel.
What are the biggest challenges of life in space? What’s going through an astronaut’s head during liftoff? Or when contemplating the Earth from above? Will interplanetary travel be different? How will future explorers handle the confinement of a space shuttle during the long months of a trip to Mars? For the answers to these questions and those you’ve been wanting to ask, join us next Tuesday, March 17th, at 7:30pm CET (11:30am PDT) at the café du Pont-neuf in Paris or on Twitter via the hashtag #CNEStweetup.
Astronaut Jean-François Clervoy working on a computer aboard the space shuttle
Discovery, December 21, 1999. (Image: NASA)