by Rochelle Strauss Tuesday May 18, 2010

I want to be an astronaut. Every parent has heard this refrain once or twice. So at TVOParents, we decided to explore the top five questions children tend to have of astronauts. And here is what we found out…

1. What do astronauts eat?
New technology in packaging means that astronauts can eat in a way that’s similar to us here on Earth. Astronauts even use forks, knives and spoons. Some of the foods are preserved and treated to prevent bacteria growth - other foods, like nuts and granola bars don't need to be treated.  Astronauts also try to eat lots of calcium-rich foods while in space to keep their bones strong.

2. How do astronauts go to the bathroom when they are in space?
Old 'space' toilets used air pressure to force waste down. Now, there’s a new type of toilet which features a cylinder system where a plastic bag is placed in the toilet before use. The bag is then sealed and is forced to the bottom of the cylinder after each use by a plunger attached to a lever. A new bag is then placed in the toilet for the next astronaut. The device also has unlimited storage capacity.

3. What happens when astronauts exhale in space?
According to Craig C. Freudenrich, Ph.D., “The astronaut breathes out carbon dioxide and in the confined space of the suit, carbon dioxide concentrations would build up to deadly levels. Therefore, excess carbon dioxide must be removed from the space suit's atmosphere. Space suits use lithium hydroxide canisters to remove carbon dioxide. These canisters are located either in the space suit's life support backpack or in the spacecraft, in which case they are accessed through an umbilical cord.”

4. What do astronauts wear under their space suits?
It’s cold in space so astronauts generally wear long underwear under their space suits. They also wear an adult diaper for several hours since they cannot remove their suits during certain parts of the mission. However, once the astronauts reach orbit, they take off the suits and put on regular clothing.

5.   How do astronauts sleep while in space?
Just like on Earth, astronauts in space go to bed at night then wake up the next day for work. There are a few differences of course.  Because there is no “up” or “down” and no gravity in space, astronauts are weightless and need to be tethered to something in order to stay safe.  Astronauts usually choose to sleep in sleeping bags and attach them to their seats on the spacecraft or to the wall.

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