Can astronauts experience motion sickness in space? | #AskAbby Space and Science Show

I am so excited to announce the release of a new weekly series called the #AskAbby Space and Science Show from The Mars Generation! Each Tuesday, I will be answering crazy, zany, out-of-this-world questions that YOU submit!

Do you have an burning science or space question that you want to see answered on #AskAbby? Please go here to submit the question for future shows!

In the very first episode of #AskAbby, please join me as I answer the question, “Can astronauts get motion sickness in space?” Find out everything you ever wanted to know about space motion syndrome (SAS) and much more now by watching the very first ever #AskAbby Space and Science Show!

This episode includes answers to questions such as:

  • What is space motion sickness?
  • How does NASA handle space motion sickness?
  • Can you predict if a person will experience space motion sickness before going to space?
  • How long does space motion sickness last?
  • Why do astronauts experience space motion sickness?
  • What other changes does the human body go through in space?

And many more questions answered! Also some Star Trek humor and other space puns included…of course! And it wouldn’t be complete without a Uranus joke!

Tune in weekly on Tuesdays for new releases of The Space and Science Show #AskAbby series! To submit a question to #AskAbby go to: http://bit.ly/2DfPz7b


Transcript

 

ABBY
Welcome to #AskAbby, where I’ll be answering all of your questions about space and science. This is a new segment of The Mars Generation Space and Science Show. We’ll be coming out with episodes every Tuesday so make sure that you go ahead and hit subscribe so you don’t miss out on them.

Do you have an out-of-this-world question that you want to see answered here on #AskAbby? You can go ahead and submit it on Twitter using the hashtag #AskAbby or using the link below for TheMarsGeneration.org.

So, this week’s question and the first question ever answered on #AskAbby is from Kerry Lynne who goes by @KerryChamplin on Twitter, and they asked, “Can you get motion sick while in space?” Now, motion sickness here on Earth isn’t actually that bad. When you get sick, whether it’s from being in a car or riding on a roller coaster, usually it lasts for a couple of minutes, maybe an hour if you’re unlucky. However, when you’re in space, you’re up there for months at a time whether you’re staying on the International Space Station, traveling to the moon, or even to Mars. I don’t think anyone wants to have motion sickness for that long. Can you imagine being motion sick for months on end? I can’t. However, let’s go ahead and take a look at what this would mean for astronauts.

In space, you don’t necessarily get the same type of motion sickness that you would expect to get here on Earth. You get something called “Space Motion Sickness!”

EMILY
Oh my gosh, Abby.

ABBY
[Laughing] What, Emily? Everything’s cooler when you put the word “space” before it. Right, guys? I think you agree with me.

SAS is caused by the changes in g-forces between being in Earth and in space that force your body’s vestibular system to adapt.

EMILY
Wait, Abby. What’s the vestibular system?

ABBY
Emily, I’m an astrobiologist not a doctor, dam**t! [Laughing]

EMILY
Abby, is that a Star Trek quote?

ABBY
[Nods]

The vestibular system which is in part located within your inner ear is the way that your body tells the spatial orientation it has and helps you keep your balance, things that are pretty important.

Sass is pretty– [Laughing]

EMILY
S. A. S.

ABBY
I just can’t even handle this acronym. Okay. So, S.A.S.–

EMILY
Action.

ABBY
SAS comes in varying levels of suckiness basically, ranging from really sucking with intense discomfort – vomiting, lack of appetite, fatigue, all of those terrible things – to very mild. Maybe a little bit of nausea or a headache or little bit of disorientation. Here’s the thing about vomiting in space though, is that: it floats. So, any level of SAS sounds like it would be terrible to experience.

So, if SAS is so awful, how do astronauts go about dealing with it for months on end? The answer is that they don’t. Space Adaptation Syndrome symptoms usually only present themselves for about two to four days at the beginning of an astronaut’s time in space.

If an astronaut experiences SAS to a high level, it can be detrimental to their mission and dangerous to themselves and their crewmates. However, as long as it’s not affecting their work, NASA usually just tells astronauts to suck it up. NASA actually prefers that astronauts handle SAS on their own without taking medication, because medications themselves can cause a lot of other undesirable side effects such as dizziness, fainting, all kinds of things. And even more so, we don’t quite understand yet how every medication will work in space. Unless an astronaut is experiencing severe symptoms of SAS, NASA generally does not medicate them.

So, how would an aspiring astronaut know if they’re gonna get SAS? Well, actually, there’s no way to tell. There’s no formal test as of now that can define whether or not someone is going to get SAS when they go into space. And it’s not even correlated as to whether or not you get motion sickness here on Earth. Astronauts who get motion sickness from everything to trains to planes to cars here on Earth have experienced very little to no effect of SAS in space and vice versa.

The most prominent example of Space Adaptation Syndrome was in 1985 when Senator Jake Garn flew in space. He became so violently ill that he actually went down in history for it. NASA created the unofficial “Garn Scale” which is a measurement of how sick you can get in space. It ranges from zero to one with one being the absolute most sick that anyone will ever get in space. Most astronauts average around a 0.1 on the Garn Scale whereas Jake Garn – he was a full one. Sounds terrible. Really, I feel for the guy.

Next time you go to the doctor, you might want to try saying, “Hey Doc, I’m feeling a full half Garn today.” They’ll have no idea what you’re saying, but it could be fun.

So, if you’re going to space, it’s pretty likely that you’re going to experience Space Adaptation Syndrome, and, really, nothing to be concerned about.

Quickly, while we’re on the topic though, what other important changes happen to the human body in space? Well, you’ve got:

  • Muscle atrophy
  • Osteoporosis
  • Nasal congestion
  • Loss of vision
  • Phantom limb and
  • Excess flatulence…

…which happens the most when you’re orbiting around Uranus [Laughing].

EMILY
So done.

ABBY
And they let me speak in classrooms.

If you’d like to ask a question about space or science and potentially see it answered here on #AskAbby, you can do so using the hashtag #AskAbby on Twitter or through TheMarsGeneration.org website which is linked below. Until then, make sure that you hit the subscribe button on YouTube so you can see our new episodes which will come out every week on Tuesdays.

Until next week, farewell fellow travelers of spaceship Earth.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *