Chris Hadfield is a busy man. The Canadian astronaut is currently under quarantine in Russia, going through a series of pre-flight tests, checks and training before blasting off to the International Space Station on Dec. 19. Once there, he'll be the first ever Canadian commander of the ISS.
Despite all that, he found the time to log on to Reddit and answer questions about his upcoming mission.
We've all wondered what it feels like to look down at Earth as an astronaut does, but have you ever wondered how they scratch their noses in space suits? Or how to trim one's moustache in microgravity? In his "IAmA," Hadfield let's us in on the more practical side of life on the ISS.
rv49er: How bright are the lights on Earth when you are in orbit at night? How does it compare to the stars we see on the surface of Earth?
Hadfield: Yes, it looks like stars from the surface of the earth, but not nearly as bright as the moon. The brightest things are lightning storms. You can see lightning storms at night for thousands of kilometers. Regular lights just look like stars from the earth. Big cities stand out as one big local glow.
This is an excellent question. Nobody ever asks this.
RapMaster5000: How do you properly trim your moustache on a mission?
Hadfield: I'll trim my moustache with scissors and a vacuum cleaner.
ken27238: What is the best part of being/living on the International Space Station?
Hadfield: The best part is being weightless forever. It is like magic. It is like having a superpower where you can fly. You can fly forever.
HitByShortbus: What is it like to sleep in a weightless environment? I know you are essentially strapped in but does it still feel like you are floating? Does that make it easier or more difficult to sleep?
Hadfield: Sleeping with no gravity is wonderful — you can relax EVERY muscle, you don't need to roll over, you don't need a pillow — VERY comfortable!
doozerpm: What does the space station smell like to you? Does it smell like a wet laundry room with a strong copper overtone, or an automobile shop?
Hadfield: The Station has no distinctive smell - it is clean and well-maintained, like being inside an airliner, maybe.
Capitan_Amazing: How do you scratch your nose when you're wearing one of those space-suits?
Hadfield: We have a squishy thing inside we jam our nose into while we clear our ears — we scratch our nose on that.
Hadfield also preemptively covered some hot topics in space travel:
Pooping: "Our Space Station toilet looks like a camping toilet, and uses airflow in place of gravity. When waste comes out of the body, either solid or liquid, it is pulled into the toilet by airflow. The urine is mixed with other waste water (humidity, water samples, etc) and purified back into drinking water. The solid waste is collected in a small sewage tank and put into an unmanned resupply ship, that is then jettisoned and burns up in the upper atmosphere. For a good summary, watch this."
Sex in space:" People have sex on Earth all the time. It is a normal, basic human function and fundamental desire, necessary for the propagation of our species. It is also steeped in cultural and personal significance, and thus gets extra attention. There will, of course, be sex in space, just like everywhere else, but for a small crew, the subdividing emotional attachment that goes along with it could be very harmful. We also have had very limited hygiene and privacy to this point. With bigger and bigger crews and spaceships, however, it will become a natural part of human existence in space, just like on Earth."
Aliens: "No astronaut has ever seen an alien, despite what popular media would like you to believe, though we are, of course actively looking; it's one of the basic purposes of exploration. As we speak, the Mars rovers are hunting for signs of life on our nearest neighbour. I'd love to help discover life somewhere besides Earth, but it's important to keep perspective and reason: while everyone often sees things they don't understand, to immediately label them 'UFOs' and conclude that they have to be alien life is just wishful thinking and a bit silly. Don't confuse entertainment and lack of understanding with fact."