Space, especially outer space, has been a source of inspiration for science fiction writers since the beginning of the 20th century. Science fiction stories about people living in spacecraft or other extraterrestrial habitats have provided both entertainment and visions of possible futures. This article discusses real-life questions about human beings travelling to distant planets and stars—and even living on other worlds while there—as well as what it is like to live on a spacecraft orbiting Earth or another planet. You’ll also read about different types of spaceships that could be used for travel beyond our solar system, where astronauts would go if they ever got there, how they would survive once they got there, and what kinds of medical tests they must pass before being selected for space travel. A similar article looks at what it’s like to live in outer space.
The challenges of living in a spaceship
Astronauts who fly into space spend days or weeks there, but on longer missions, they will have to live their entire lives inside a spacecraft orbiting Earth. These spacecraft need not be dull, cramped tubes like you see in the movies. With the right materials and design, they can be pleasant places to live. Because spacecraft are tiny self-contained worlds, astronauts will need life support systems to keep them supplied with air, water, food, light, heat, and other resources necessary for survival.
How do you get all of these things to a spaceship orbiting far from Earth?
The International Space Station (ISS) is about the size of a football field. It provides an environment where people can live during long periods in outer space. Astronauts take along supplies when they travel into space, but the ISS gets its supplies by visiting resupply vehicles that carry everything needed to stay there for several months at a time—and even years if the plan works out. The ISS is also used to test new technologies that could be useful in long-distance space travel, such as life support systems.
What would it be like to live on a spaceship?
Astronauts live inside the ISS in modules that are about the size of school buses. These modules contain sleeping quarters, exercise equipment, laboratories, and control rooms. To make room for everything, they are crammed together very tightly. When astronauts return to Earth after living on the ISS for extended periods (like 6 months or more), their bodies sometimes suffer from negative effects caused by microgravity (lack of gravity ) experienced while living in space—effects similar to those seen in patients who have been bedridden for long periods. Space travelers must exercise every day to avoid losing bone and muscle mass. Still, space travelers can expect to return home about two inches shorter than they would have been on Earth because the spine and leg muscles relax in microgravity. To prevent these negative effects, future missions might include a centrifuge (a rotating machine that simulates gravity) for training astronauts ahead of time and rehabilitating them after months in microgravity.