How Do Astronauts Scratch Their Noses in Spacesuits? 

5 min read

Space suits are one of the most technologically advanced pieces of equipment designed for humans. These suits allow astronauts to perform spacewalks and carry out various tasks in the harsh environment of space. What are some of the interesting technology integrated into a spacesuit that make this possible? 

1. Life Support Systems

*Acronyms listed below

The most critical component of a spacesuit is its life support system. It provides the astronaut with oxygen, regulates temperature, and removes carbon dioxide. This system is essential for survival in the vacuum of space where there is no air to breathe. 

2. Mobility Joints

The spacesuit’s mobility joints are specially designed to allow astronauts to move freely and perform various tasks in space. These joints are made of metal bellows that are flexible and allow for a full range of motion. 

3. Protective Layering

Spacesuits are made of multiple layers of materials to protect the astronaut from extreme temperatures, micrometeoroids, and other hazards in space. The outer layer is made of a tough material like Nomex or Kevlar, while the inner layer is made of a soft material that is comfortable to wear and helps regulate temperature. 

4. Water Cooling and Ventilation System

Spacesuits are equipped with a complex water cooling and ventilation system that helps regulate the astronaut’s body temperature and keep them comfortable during spacewalks. This system circulates water through tubes in the suit, which cools the body and removes excess heat, preventing overheating and fatigue. 

5. Internal fire extinguisher

Post-incident analysis of the EMU life support system revealed that the fire was intense enough to burn aluminum. Credits: NASA

Even though spacesuits are built to be fire resistant, spacesuits are equipped with a built-in fire extinguisher to ensure the safety of astronauts during spacewalks. In the unlikely event of a fire inside the spacesuit, the fire extinguisher provides a safe and quick way to extinguish the flames and prevent further damage. The use of a fire extinguisher in a spacesuit is a last resort measure and should only be used in extreme circumstances. 

6. Relieving of sinus pressure

Just like how we feel during a flight or while taking a fast elevator, astronauts will experience sinus pressure as well. While wearing the bulky suit during a spacewalk, astronauts have a special foam pad call a valsalva device to aid them from the pressure buildup in their nasal passage and ears. To perform the Valsalva maneuver while wearing a spacesuit, the astronaut must exhale against a closed glottis while keeping their mouth and nose closed. This can be achieved by holding their breath and bearing down, as if they were trying to defecate or lift a heavy object. 

7. How to scratch an itch

During a spacewalk, astronauts are confined within their spacesuits for long periods of time, which can lead to discomfort and irritation on the skin. Itching is a common complaint, and can be caused by a variety of factors, including dry skin, heat, and sweat. Scratching an itch can be challenging while wearing a spacesuit, as the gloves are thick and bulky, and the helmet is not designed to be easily removed or adjusted. The Velcro pad, also known as hook and loops due to the design, provides a simple and effective solution to this problem. By attaching the hook side of the velcro pad to the inside of the helmet, astronauts can scratch their face without the need to remove the helmet or adjust their gloves. This provides a tactile sensation that can relieve the itch, and the position of the pad near the forehead allows for easy access to most areas of the face.

In conclusion, spacesuits are a marvel of modern technology that enable astronauts to perform spacewalks and carry out various tasks in the harsh environment of space. From life support systems to mobility joints, protective layering, visors, and helmets, every aspect of the spacesuit has been carefully designed to protect the astronaut and allow them to operate effectively in the vacuum of space.

Written by Terry Tan
Illustrated by Lim Daphne


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