Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Michael. Michael Wonders, “what do astronauts do in space” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Michael!
Being an astronaut and exploring outer space has to rank up there with the coolest possible things in — and out! — of this world. Oddly enough, though, one of the problems that many astronauts on long missions face is the opposite of excitement: boredom.
If you're fascinated by outer space, you might WONDER how astronauts could possibly get bored in space. If you give it some thought, though, you'll realize it's possible to get bored with just about anything.
For example, have you ever wanted a particular piece of electronic gadgetry for Christmas? Perhaps you've desired a video game console forever. You believe it'll be the greatest present ever.
Once you receive it as a gift, it even exceeds your expectations and you play with it day and night for several days. A few months later, however, you play with it occasionally but it doesn't keep you occupied constantly like it used to. You still get bored even with the gadget you thought you couldn't live without.
Now imagine you're in outer space spending six months on the International Space Station. The trip up would be very exciting. The first few days and even weeks would be filled with all sorts of new experiences. Sooner or later, though, you're going to get bored spending all of your time in the same place, eating the same foods, and doing the same things over and over again — all without your friends and family around.
Boredom in space is an even bigger problem for scientists trying to plan manned missions to Mars and other places far out in outer space. Can you imagine spending multiple years simply traveling to get to another planet? If you've ever asked "Are we there yet?" on a three- or four-hour road trip, then you can imagine how bored you might feel if the answer to your question was "Only two more years to go!"
There are many ways that astronauts combat boredom in space. First, they work — a lot! Astronauts spend a lot of time conducting scientific experiments and making observations. All work and no play is no fun, though, so astronauts do get free time every day and especially on weekends.
What do astronauts do in their spare time? Although they don't have the range of options we have on Earth, they can do many of the same things we do to avoid boredom. They might talk to friends and family members via the Internet. They could read books, listen to music, watch movies, or play cards. Perhaps they prefer to exercise. Sometimes they simply like to gaze out the windows, watching Earth from a great distance.
Is it a big deal if astronauts get bored? It can be. Scientists tasked with making sure astronauts stay healthy on long missions have found that boredom can become more than just a psychological problem. Prolonged boredom can lead to astronauts not eating enough food. On an extended mission, this could lead to malnutrition and other health problems.
To counteract both boredom and malnutrition, NASA has started to give astronauts a variety of spices along with the ability to cook some of their own meals. The creativity this allows has helped reduce boredom while also ensuring that astronauts are eating enough nutritious food.