Is there training at NASA or elsewhere for this type of stuff?
There are analogs of the space station and the modules to prepare them for how to handle things. Go see how you do to do the so-called mundane things you do in space. And when it comes to understanding how these things work in space, there are parabolic flights that follow, where you experience weightlessness for 25 seconds at a time.
But we never really take wholesale training to do other things, like cleaning our teeth. So you have to understand that, make that connection from your zero-G training to your current job and life in space. And I think most people make this transition pretty soon. People need to understand these things. I think once you visualize the environment you go into and you have zero-G formation, then you have this exercise of thinking about how to do this in microgravity. And I think those are the people who take it really quickly, because you’re already kind of done by visualizing it.
One of the reasons we’re talking about this is that Tide has announced a new partnership with NASA develop and test the detergent that could be used to clean the items in scarce water environments. Astronauts may finally be able to wash the laundry in space. This sounds like a small thing, but why does it matter to astronauts and for future space travel?
We throw our clothes in the space so we don’t clean them. When we finally go on future lunar or Martian missions, or one day we are even further away, we will not be able to throw anything away. We will have to reuse everything. And I think it’s critical for exploration. Washing clothes looks mundane, but it’s life. It is a must-have for the future of exploration. Or we don’t have enough clothes to exercise and work out and do our jobs.
There are a lot of new opportunities coming for civilians to go into space. How do you anticipate that astronaut training will evolve and transform to accommodate these types of people? What could new technologies like VR do?
There is a company called Star Harbor Space Academy that seeks to have a Natural Buoyancy Laboratory for training people for space, with zero-G flights in aerospace, robotics, and even VR. I mean, what if you had a VR suit that gave you the tactile sensations, the smell, the temperature – all the senses that you should be excited about from what you’re perceiving as the space experience? As if you’re taking a space walk, and you’re out in this dress, open the door, and feel the sun set here. It’s 250 degrees Fahrenheit, isn’t it? This immersive experience — that would be a great tool to help people train.
Are there any major tips you have for civilians going on these missions?
Self-care before group care: You take care of your own things first, before you try to go out and help someone else. Because what happens is that you have to go to work the robotic arm while someone is at the end, or tasks like that. But now all of a sudden you’re worried about “Hey, did I put my shirts back here? Did I have the right thing I needed? Did I do all my things?” So take care of your personal space, your crew, your your hygiene, of all these things as soon as possible. And then if you can help someone, then do it then.
The other thing is visualization. I close my eyes and say, “Okay, I’m going through the space shuttle through the door through the space station. I turn it around 180 degrees …” It’s like what we did when we played football: we went for all this paper exercise running down the path, catching the ball, doing the touchdown.And you can do the same thing in space for something like the work of the robotic arm: “I’m moving the translator hand controller, and the payload moves that way I move … ”And I think that’s something I think civilians who are coming should start doing.