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How do Astronauts Eat, Sleep in Spaceship?

Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng, the two astronauts undertaking China's second manned space mission, will live and work in space for about 119 hours. How do they move, eat and sleep in the vessel?


Astronauts menu


Before the Shenzhou VI was launched, two space medical specialists prescribed detailed recipe for the two astronauts, including 50-odd varieties of foodstuff. Fei and Nie will have three meals every day, with balanced nutrition and adaptation to their respective tastes.


According to Chen Bin, head of the Space Nutrition and Foodstuff Research Office under China Space Center, the two astronauts will have three meals every day, five to six dishes for each meal. Foodstuff prepared for them total more than 40 kg.


Chen said the foodstuff can be classified into staple food and no staple food. Rice will be the major staple food, with 140 grams of rice packed into a vacuum bag to be warmed by a heater. Non-staple foods include beef cooked with preserved orange peels, beef and cuttle balls and dehydrated vegetables such as rape hearts cooked with mushrooms.


The astronauts have instant coffee, green tea, orange juice and even creamy soup to drink. Dehydrated, refrigerated fruits provided for them include strawberry, apple, banana, peach and Hami melon.


Sleep in varying postures


A sleeping bag has been arranged for the Shenzhou VI spacecraft. It is hooked on the wall of the vessel's orbit module. The astronauts will sleep by turns, one at rest and the other on duty. Under the micro gravity conditions, they may sleep standing, sitting or lying. When they sleep, they should put their arms inside the sleeping bag and tie their hands on their chests, so as not to touch equipment switches accidentally.


It is reported that in microgravity environment, a sleeping person will have a feeling that their arms and legs seem to separate from their trunks. An astronaut from the former Soviet Union once took one of his arms left outside his sleeping bag as a weird object floating toward him. He was scared in cold sweat by the illusion.


Astronaut suit: personal protection system


Since no space walk is planned for the current manned space task, Fei and Nie are equipped with only intra-capsule suits, which weigh more than 10 kg each, said Li Tanqiu, director of the Astronautic Suit Research Office under the China Space Center.


If accidental pressure loss occurs in the capsule, the astronautic-suit rescue system will start to keep astronauts safe and sound in six hours, during which the vessel will possibly realize an emergency return to the Earth, Li added.


At the place of heart on the astronautic suit, there is a round-shaped device that can be screwed. It is used to readjust pressure, temperature and humidity inside the suit. On the right side of the stomach position of the suit, a thin tube serves for telecommunications; and on the left side, two pipes are used for providing oxygen and discharging carbon dioxide.


According to Li Tanqiu, the outer layer of the suit is made of high-intensity polyester fabric, allowing a five-square-centimeter cloth to resist a pulling force of 300 kg.


During their five-day space travel, Fei and Nie will take off the astronautic suits to enter the orbiter from the re-entry module. In the microgravity environment, they will take on and off the suits in 10 minutes, Li Tanqiu said.


(Xinhua News Agency October 12, 2005)


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