May 27, 2011

Did you ever get soap in your eye? It stings like crazy, and all you want to do is rub your eye and wash it out with clear water as quickly as you can.

So what happens if you are in the middle of a spacewalk, wearing a helmet that you cannot take off, and you get soap in your eye? Astronaut Andrew Feustel, a mission specialist on the Endeavour crew working at the International Space Station, ran into just that problem yesterday. "My right eye is stinging like crazy now," he radioed. "It’s watering a lot." It turned out that the soap-like anti-fogging solution that they spray onto inside of the astronauts’ helmets had gotten into his eye. Ouch. No way to reach up and rub your eye if you are floating in deep space!

For a few minutes, they thought that they would have to cut the spacewalk short and let him come back inside. Finally, he managed to rub his eye against a foam block in his helmet - normally used for clearing ears - and said that helped. He also noted that tears in space "don’t fall off of your eye ... they kind of stay there."

Kids (and adults) often wonder about how astronauts take care of simple things like having a drink when liquids float away. Same problem with brushing your teeth, or going to the bathroom. NASA had to figure out how astronauts would accomplish all of these things before we were ever able to send men and women into space. Yesterday’s incident was just one more example of things that we handle so easily here on Earth, but can become a real pain (in the eye) in space!

Photo: NASA 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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