What life is like on the International Space Station (pictures)

Upside-down naps, suction toilets, incinerated laundry -- this is life on the ISS.

Leslie Gornstein
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Life's a gas

Think you've got what it takes to live on the International Space Station for months at a time?

Day-to-day life can be fun, but it's also a challenge for people who, you know, like gravity.

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Keep it fresh

Fresh produce does occasionally show up on the ISS. But...

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Most of the time, breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and even drinks look like this.

A typical meat dish: Barbecue beef brisket. Seen here: a Thanksgiving feast.

Experiments in space
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Every element of an astronaut's workday, from experiments (such as this one) to showering, are scheduled by dozens of ground crew.

View of Earth from space
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View from the top

Downtime is often spent gazing at the home planet via the Cupola, the station's 360-degree viewing platform. But daytime viewing requires eye protection.

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Downtime... sorta

Even during downtime, ISS astronauts always have reminders of their crucial work. Their sleeping pods have laptops in them, and even the space in the serene Cupola does double duty. It's also the primary control station for the station's robotic arm, Canadarm2.

Eye exams in space
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Blurred lines

Astronauts, including these two from NASA, tend to experience deteriorating vision in space, so regular eye exams are part of the routine. These two are performing the exams inside the ISS Destiny Laboratory.

Haircuts in space
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High and tight

Haircuts can be a challenge in zero gravity. Here, an Italian crew member holds a vacuum to suck up hair loosed by a colleague's shears.

Space burger
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Space burger

Care for a burger?

This is what a US astronaut ate recently prior to a space walk: beef patties, cheese, tomato paste and Russian mustard on a tortilla wrap.

3D printer on ISS
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Ever dreamt of having your own 3D printer? The ISS has one. (It was used to print this item.) The long-term goal: having a self-sufficient machine shop on board the space station.

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View from the top

From the Cupola, the crew can see the Russian Soyuz craft, which has been used to bring them to and from the station.

Laundry in space
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No need for detergent

Clothes, such as the socks worn by this ISS crew member, get dirty just like they do on Earth. But there's no laundry system on the ISS; instead, crew members eject the dirty clothes, which are incinerated in Earth's atmosphere.

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Taste of home

ISS workers do get the occasional favorite treat, such as their preferred brand of mustard or, in one case, marshmallow fluff.

Exercise at the ISS
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Regimented regimen

Crew members often work out twice a day at pre-designated times.

Bathing on the ISS
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Keep it clean

There are no showers on the ISS. Instead, as demonstrated by this astronaut, crew members take a type of sponge bath using a pre-mixed, rinse-free cleaning solution and a towel.

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Exercise in futility?

A hygiene station includes a hairbrush, toothbrush and other necessities...but zero gravity has a way of undoing a lot of preening.

Brushing teeth on the ISS
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Pearly whites

Brushing teeth aboard the ISS can be fun, given that the both toothpaste and water...

Brushing teeth on the ISS
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Fun with hygiene

...stick to the brush with a little coaxing.

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Hydration on the go

Is an extra bit of water trying to get away? Just lean forward and drink the renegade water globule.

Bathroom on the ISS
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Very remote outhouse

Here's a sign posted in the bathroom on the ISS.

Toilet on the ISS
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Tiny commode

Crew members in need of a toilet had better have good aim; the hole is small.

The good news: There's an array of toilet papers and wipes to choose from, including American-style soft paper and coarser, Russian-style TP.

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Speaking of good aim...

Men and women urinate into this yellow suction tube. There are disinfectant wipes nearby in case of a miss.

Sleeping on the ISS
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Sleep without gravity

Sleep pods on the ISS are on four walls of the station, because gravity isn't a factor.

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