Space is a vicious environment for humans in a number of ways. It contains neither air nor oxygen, so humans are unable to breathe. The vacuum (zero pressure) of space can destroy an unprotected human body in a few seconds by explosive decompression. Temperatures in space in the shadow of a planet reach absolute zero, or about 273 degrees below freezing. The temperatures in direct sunlight can become fatally high. Solar and cosmic radiation in space may also be fatal to an unshielded person, who is not protected by the atmosphere of the earth. These immediate dangers make space more dangerous than the driest, hottest desert. Other dangers are more long-term, such as the tendency for muscles and bones to weaken over time, making returning to the gravity of Earth after a long space trip very tiring, painful and sometimes deadly.
Humans can be protected in space in several ways. A space suit is a good start in providing warmth, oxygen, pressure and shielding. Even the newest space suits are bulky and cumbersome, and make going to the bathroom and eating labor-intensive tasks. Space suits are not needed inside of space craft, so life inside a space ship doesn't have to be so bad. In fact, the zero gravity which allows you to float around might make it kind of fun, after you have gotten over the nausea from not knowing which way is up and which is down.
Manned space craft are designed to provide air for astronauts, food and water, navigation equipment, seating and sleeping, and communication equipment. They have restraints so you don't float around and bump your head while sleeping. Living is always in tight quarters because of the small craft size, so there is not much privacy or alone time. Also, the food is not so great because it is all freeze-dried and irradiated. For people to live in space, a lot of expense goes into researching and building the protective clothing and structures to insure their safety and basic comfort. One of the major costs in space aside from getting there is the cost and science of battling the elements which threaten human survival.
About the Authors
Kristina Cordova, Adam Hutcherson & Sheila Cook are students at West High School in Torrance Unified School District in Mr. Abouaf's first period Integrated Science class.