My mentor told me, “Everything out in space is trying to kill you. Space does not bend to humans; you cannot control it, you have no power over it, obey and play by its rules, you will be fine.

Astronauts are ridiculously fit. On the international space station, they are working out six days a week for 2 hours. The workout is divided into weight lifting, running, etc. The reason is, if they don’t, their bodies are dying very slowly.

Believe it or not, we take our gravity for granted. Without it, we would most likely not exist on this planet. Even our gravity somehow falls in a goldilocks zone. Too much gravity and we would barely be able to walk, too less, and we would cease to stay on the ground.

Let’s talk about the potential effects of living in space.

Radiation: Earth’s magnetic field protects us from most of the harmful radiation that comes our way from outer space. We do intake radiation from everything we eat, but it’s in an infinitesimal quantity. Radiation exposure can lead to short- and long-term consequences, depending on how much total radiation astronauts experience and the time frame they experience that exposure. Cancer, heart diseases, and cataracts have been observed in human populations exposed to radiation on Earth. Not only will astronauts be exposed to more radiation in space than on Earth, but the radiation they are exposed to could pose increased risks.

Psychological Implications: We are humans; most humans need other humans around them to function. I am an introvert, and yet I live in one of the busiest cities in the world. I’ve lived alone for most of my life and continue to do so. Although I am more than okay being alone for 6-8 months in complete isolation (Thank you pandemic), I don’t know how or what the psychological implications might turn out to be. Astronauts are carefully chosen, trained, and supported to ensure they will work effectively as a team for the duration of the mission. Many factors affect the astronauts psychologically, stress, sleep, different sleep cycles, duration of the mission, etc.

Gravity: Gravity holds us together as humans. Without it, it affects spatial orientation, head-eye, and hand-eye coordination, balance, and locomotion, with some astronauts experiencing space motion sickness. Some astronauts lose eyesight for a few weeks or months and have a hard to walking straight. NASA survey of 300 male and female astronauts, about 23 percent of short-flight and 49 percent of long-flight astronauts, said they had experienced near and distance vision problems during their missions. Again, for some people, vision problems persisted for years afterward. When shifting from weightlessness to gravity, astronauts may experience post-flight orthostatic intolerance where they cannot maintain their blood pressure when standing up, leading to lightheadedness and fainting. Without our planet’s gravity, our bones lose on average 1% to 1.5% of mineral density per month in space. After returning to Earth, rehabilitation might not wholly correct bone loss; however, their risk for fracture is not higher. Without the proper diet and exercise routine, astronauts lose muscle mass in microgravity faster than they would on Earth. 

  • The greatest threat in the vacuum of space derives from the lack of oxygen and pressure, although temperature and radiation also pose risks. The effects of space exposure can result in ebullism, hypoxia, hypocapnia, and decompression sickness. In addition to these, cellular mutation and destruction from high-energy photons and sub-atomic particles are also present in the surroundings. 
  • If the body does not get enough oxygen, the astronaut is at risk of becoming unconscious and dying from hypoxia.
  • In a vacuum, there is no medium for removing heat from the body by conduction or convection. Loss of heat is by radiation from the 310 K temperature of a person to the 3 K of outer space. It’s a slow process, especially in a clothed person, so there is no danger of immediately freezing.
  • Blood and other bodily fluids are pulled by gravity into the lower body. When you go to space, gravity weakens, and thus fluids are no longer pulled down, resulting in a state where fluids accumulate in the upper body. Hence, the face swells in space.

I am still nowhere near the physical fitness needed to qualify for candidacy, and although this is a slow process and takes years to build – it doesn’t let me sleep. Hence this.

One day at a time

Nobody said this was going to be easy or straightforward, but it’s hard – living a double life in a single day. Is it worth it? Well, I wouldn’t be going crazy over it for multiple years now. Any other person would probably quit. But it’s hard – the first life, morning, work—second life – workout, studies, cooking, personal work, etc. I wish I could have more than 24 hours in a day.

My manager saw my strava posting and discussed it at work – div running at 11:00 in the night, just like always. It was funny.

That is the cost of ambition, you cannot have everything in the world, but something is just worth having more than others. Not for me but everyone else.

In other news, I’ve been contacted again by google the third time. The first time, I had bombed my onsight interview during grad school. More than nine companies have reached out to my email in the last month. One even dared to reach out on my work email—the audacity of poaching. The truth is, I am really happy where I am. I don’t think I’ll ever find a manager and team that lets me innovate, experiment, and fail at such a fast pace.

Does it get frustrating once in a while? Of course, but who doesn’t. That’s the cost of innovation scientists and engineers pay to push forward. Can I make more $$ at other companies? Yes, but is that 20-30% of the jump worth the mental peace and sanity? Hard No. I doubt I will ever leave this place. There are certainly ups and downs, but it’s not related to the workplace; it’s me. And I hope I continue to be in a place where I am uncomfortable to push forward but not too uncomfortable that I don’t want to work or get burned out – that’s the goldilocks zone. I find this balance perfect. If every day doesn’t challenge and push you, what else is there?

I was talking to someone today who knew my childhood. He said, “You had a rough start to life, some men barely make it out in one piece, most – don’t even make it out, you not only made it out but kicked the hell out of it that you’re past is afraid to look you in the eyes. Just don’t stop here. You have a long way to go. Nobody cares about who is at the back of the marathon for the entire race; everyone cherishes the winner of the marathon, the final moments of the race matters.” Yeah, that hit home.