Astronauts have trouble sleeping

How the astronauts eat, sleep and stay fit on the ISS

The astronauts spend many hours of their precious time on the ISS maintaining the most maintenance-intensive parts of the space station: themselves

Stay in step

So that the astronauts in space do not lose their sense of time, their strictly timed schedule adheres to the earthly 24-hour rhythm. “At night”, many of the space travelers use sleep masks or strap themselves in their sleeping bags - because sleeping soundly is not easy: especially shortly before falling asleep, with their eyes closed they often see small flashes of cosmic radiation particles that hit the retina. After “getting up”, the astronauts can wash themselves with wet wipes - and while brushing their teeth they can do one or two somersaults to wake up.

Food is ready!

The crew comes together for breakfast, lunch and dinner: the time of pure tube and paste catering is long gone. There are dozens of dishes to choose from: especially welded, freeze-dried meals. Much is briefly heated in an electric furnace, while others are injected with hot water. Only crumbs are to be avoided - as far as possible; they could damage the on-board electronics. That is why the astronauts spoon their meals out of cans or bags and drink with straws. If you want to please your colleague, you can let him float a freshly brewed cappuccino sealed in a bag.

The weekly containers contain main courses and side dishes, starters, breakfast and snacks. For more variety, every spaceman can also order a few food containers for which he can determine the contents. Alexander Gerst, for example, has ordered cheese spaetzle, ravioli and oven snacks with plums, among other things. As a rule, however, the crew first has to empty their opened food containers before opening the next one. The popular dishes are then quickly gone, and the leftovers are waiting at the end of the week.

Replenishment, please!

Unmanned space freighters regularly bring new supplies, clothing and material for experiments to the ISS. Their arrival is a little like Christmas for the astronauts. When a transporter was delayed on an earlier ISS mission, the crew had to strictly ration their food to 1700 calories per person per day.

Fitness center

Who floats, loses: The body is not as challenged as it is on earth, and therefore breaks down muscle and bone mass. To counteract this, the astronauts train for more than two hours almost every day on special treadmills, ergometers and weight machines. Most of them develop a special love-hate relationship with one of them, the “ARED” (“Advanced Resistive Exercise Device”): The harness, which is supposed to replace gravity while running, cuts into the back and the athletes have to rely on the tensile force of the dumbbells Add your body weight again. Alexander Gerst weighs almost 200 kilograms that he has to lift every day.

But lazing around is not an option. Because regular training will help the astronauts return and can even save their lives in the event of a difficult landing. They also want to find out how future astronauts would have to arm themselves for even longer journeys in space - for example for a trip to Mars.

However, there was one exception to the regularity for Alexander Gerst during his first mission on the ISS: On Sunday he skipped training and trained particularly hard for the rest of the week. With success: at the end of the mission he even had more muscle mass than at the start - and felt “fitter than ever”.


And how do you spend the evening after work in space? Alexander Gerst, for example, wants to use the time on the weekends and “evenings”, as on the first mission, to carry out experiments with students and send films of them to earth, establish radio contact with school classes, and make phone calls with friends and family. And as often as possible he will sit in the observation module of the station and photograph the earth through the panorama window. “The Cupola is my favorite place on the ISS,” he says.