Space is a curious place. It’s the final frontier. Only 563 humans have ever been there. If you could take them out for a beer, what’s the first thing you’d ask them? Can you fart in space, obviously. Colonel Chris Hadfield lived aboard the International Space Station (ISS) for five months in 2013 and then spent the next two years posting videos to YouTube about life in zero gravity. The recently-retired Canadian astronaut then took to Reddit to field more questions from interested nerds about his experience space life, and we’ve picked the best of the bunch to share with you.
Q: Do you fart more or less in space?
A: More – because it’s impossible to burp when weightless (the gas, liquid and solid in your stomach all mix together).
Q: Is it possible for someone to get stuck floating in the middle of a room in the ISS?
A: Yes, it is – you can get stuck floating in the centre of Node 1, where open space is biggest due to hatches on all sides. But the ISS has fans and forced air to mix and refresh the internal atmosphere, so there’s always a small crosswind. Wait long enough, you’ll get pulled to an air inlet.
Q: Would farting push you far enough to get unstuck?
A: We all tried it – too muffled, not the right type of propulsive nozzle.
Q: What happens if you sneeze in a helmet?
A: When we have to sneeze in our spacesuit, we lean our heads forward and sneeze into our chest, to keep it from splattering on the visor. Still messy, but the best compromise – clean it up when you de-suit.
Q: Do you believe in extra-terrestrials?
A: I’ve always thought that was an odd way to ask. ‘Believing’ and ‘believing in’ are two different things. Our best telescopes have shown us that there is basically an unlimited number of planets in the universe. To think that Earth is the only one where life could have developed is just self-importance. But to think that intelligent life has travelled all the way here and is sneaking around observing us is also just self-importance. The universe is basically endless. We have not yet found life anywhere but on Earth, but we’re looking for it, to the best of our technical ability. All else is wishful thinking and science fiction.
Q: If you could have any animal in the ISS with you, what would it be?
A: It’s a strange environment, weightlessness. I wouldn’t want to bring an animal that would be scared or unable to adapt, also food and pooping are problematic. So perhaps something calm and simple, a reliable pet, like a snail.
Q: How would you describe space to someone who hasn’t been there?
A: Space is profound, endless, a textured black, a bottomless eternal bucket of untouchable velvet and untwinkling stars.