Why the madness?
Astronauts perform science and research that only a microgravity environment can provide. The ISS crew spends their day working on experiments that require their input, as well as monitoring those that are controlled from the ground. They also take part in medical experiments to determine how well their bodies are adjusting to living in microgravity for long periods of time.
Working on the space station means ensuring the maintenance and health of the orbiting platform. Astronauts are constantly checking support systems and cleaning filters, updating computer equipment: doing many of the things homeowners must do to ensure their largest investment stays in good shape. Astronauts make sure that the station is in top shape, so they clean, check equipment, maintain and repair or replace broken equipment. Crew members also must exercise two hours each day to stay fit and keep their bones and muscles strong. It’s a tough and dangerous job but the view is terrific. The extra-vehicular activities, or EVAs, help keep the space station running.
Why the fuss?
Space does not adhere to the human body as our planet does. Astronauts require a continuous supply of oxygen, water, food, and shelter. They must endure long intervals of weightlessness. Their physical capabilities remain constant across generations. And their loss, when it occurs, casts a pall over our would-be joy of identifying with their exploration. Not only do they put their life on the line, but they lift the human spirit, motivate generations who look up to them, push forward the boundaries of human understanding, and most importantly, bring people together.