Ever wanted the inside scoop on the NASA shuttle program? This month, astronaut Mike Mullane, who's gone spaceborne three times, reveals some of the dirty details in his new book, Riding Rockets. Reuters published an interview with him today.
On the business side of things, he claims the shuttle is "the most dangerous manned spacecraft ever flown, by anybody." (Obviously he hasn't experienced Captain Whizbang's Olde Time TNT Caboose to the Stars.) On the whimsical side of things, he provides TMI regarding the depth of his preparation for astronaut selection. "I was determined when the NASA proctologist looked up my ass, he would see pipes so dazzling he would ask the nurse to get his sunglasses." Hallelujah.
Today, that level of preening might designate Mullane a metrosexual. But in close quarters, internal hygiene is not so trivial. In an account by astronaut Harrison Schmitt of his 1973 trip to the Moon, Schmitt describes a stinky side effect of lunar life support:
All of us had to live with hydrogen gas in the water used to reconstitute various foods (basically the same as today's trail foods)... Although the convenience of having a continuous supply of fresh water should be obvious, hydrogen going into our guts with the food had to come out, much to the discomfort of crew mates.
(Overall, accommodations suited Schmitt better than some of the camps on his geological field trips in Norway and Alaska. "Certainly you had no black flies or mosquitoes to bother you on the Moon," he told me recently.)
On Mullane's website, we find the following bold announcement: "Riding Rockets is written for adult readers. It is inappropriate for children." For a more tame tale, check out Sally Ride's To Space & Back, written for young readers. (Full disc: I work for her.) But, as it turns out, kids are interested in poop too. (Who knew?) Sally's book has a full-page photo of a shuttle shitter. And when she speaks to kids, the most popular question is, "How do you go to the bathroom in space?" Very carefully.