Peeing in Space: An Oral History of Space Tourism

| 2/16/2009 11:55:35 AM

AstronautMost childhood dreams of flying to the moon go unfulfilled. It turns out that becoming an astronaut is really hard. But nowadays, if you’re lucky enough to have a spare $20 million dollars or so lying around, you can go into orbit without landing a plumb gig at NASA. Technology Review spent six months interviewing five of the six space tourists that have, so far, made the trip to the International Space Station. The result is the “first oral history of space tourism,” published in the February 2009 issue as a collection of excerpts from the interviews that together tell the story “of what a space vacation is really like.” Here’s a taste of some mundane details from the interviews that bring the experience to life:

Anousheh Ansari on the conditions of Star City, the military base turned astronaut campus in Russia where the “private cosmonauts”—one of the terms Richard Garriott prefers to “space tourist”—train for at least three months:

Everything is on the verge of falling down. … The first day I came, there was no hot water. The next day, there was no hot water. I was going to the gym and taking showers over there. Finally I went down, and it’s like, “Do you know when the hot water will come back?” They said, “Yeah, in about a month.”

On Russian launch day customs, of which there are apparently many:

Greg Olsen: A lot of traditions come from Yuri Gagarin [the first human in space]. When he was going out to the launch, he had to take a leak. They just didn’t make any provisions for it. He said, “Stop the bus.” He got off the bus and peed on the rear tire, and ever since then, that’s mandatory.

More on peeing:

2/19/2009 12:21:31 PM

Peeing in space, an oral history...Brilliant!