What’s It Like In Space? by Ariel Waldman (book review).

April 5, 2016 | By | Reply More

For a little book, Ariel Waldman’s ‘What’s It Like In Space?’, answers all sorts of questions that you would want to know about because these are quotes from various astronauts over the years answering various topics you would like to ask then. I do think the primary target is children, more so as it describes the things kids like to know about toiletry, colds and farts, I’m sure adults will have some fun here as well, so it’s really more a family book.


I suspect the interest in body functions is so universal is because we are all aware that zero-gravity is going to have some sort of effect on them that its common ground to ask what happens. You shouldn’t have a taste for pop and other similar products because burping will also induce vomiting. Oddly, at the back of the book, it’s revealed that if you push off a wall while burping, you can counteract the effect. A demonstration of Newton’s third law of motion, everything has an opposite effect.

Farting cannot be used for propulsion but has been tried inside the space station although, thinking about it, I do wonder why no one has thought about letting it loose through a smaller aperture might change this. Mind you, I can’t see anyone volunteering for that particular experiment, although it does bring to mind the farting balloon noise. All astronauts’ sense of smell and taste is diminished in space so I doubt if there is any lingering smell left. Without something to hold onto or no relative motion, you can be seriously stuck in the middle of the air on the station.

Something I didn’t know was that you can sneeze in a space helmet, although it’s done downwards to stop clogging up the inside or misting the visor. You certainly wouldn’t want a cold in space and yes, it has happened. You do have to have some semblance of control when it comes to sweat and tears. Spacesuits do have their own noises which tends to reassure the astronauts that everything is working OK. I love the descriptions of what space smells like and for that, you’ll need to buy your own copy.

There is a reminder that astronauts shouldn’t be over-worked in space and that goes back as far as 1973 when the team on Skylab had a day off. Something that definitely needs exploring is of all the insects that have been taken into space, only the moth adapted and flew in zero gravity. I had a think about that one and wonder if, unlike butterflies, it might be because most don’t close their wings when landed. Oh, you can’t lose anything that floats away on the space station. A fan draws it in and the contents of a box will always have them.

Shrimp based food seems to be popular with astronauts because of its strong taste and I do wonder if they’ve tried taking live specimens into space to see how they survive. I did look this up but only brine shrimps have been sent up so far. You would think that this is one experiment that would have been carried out by now if only to supply fresh food for the Mars trip.

There’s also a feeling that we really ought to send a few artists and poets into space for them to add to the emotional experience that these astronauts experience through the comments made. Judging by how profound the experience the regular astronauts get from space, you would have to wonder about those who have the mindset that way.

For such a tiny book, you do get a remarkable amount of info out of it. I’m less sure about the illustrations but these might vary with taste but they feel more like padding. However, if this book is a success, I hope more is explored in the future.

GF Willmetts

April 2016

(pub: Chronicle Books. 127 page illustrated small hardback. Price: £ 9.99 (UK), $14.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-45214-476-4)

check out websites: www.chroniclebooks.com and www.Spacehack.org

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Category: Books

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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