Do Astronauts Get Jet Lag? Richard Linnehan Answers

It’s much easier to launch into space than return to Earth, and astronauts have to be in perfect physical condition and take special dietary supplements to endure the journey home. Being in shape is also critical during the outgoing flight—which is like being in a car crash.

What is it like to work in a space suit in outer space? Imagine trying to change your car’s spark plugs in total darkness wearing a knight’s armor, a fishbowl on your head, boxing gloves on your hands, roller skates on your feet, and lobster tongs instead of fingers.

Dr. Richard M. Linnehan, an American veterinarian and NASA astronaut who visited Bulgaria in May, speaks from experience. He has taken part in four NASA space research missions, spending two months in space and doing 45 minutes’ worth of spacewalks. Today, he works at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, which is responsible for astronaut training and spaceflight control. Dr. Linnehan often lectures at US schools where he talks about the benefits of education in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).

He joked with the audience in Bulgaria that even astronaut training can’t save you from jet lag after a long flight, like the one from the United States to Bulgaria, which is actually much longer than a spaceflight.

Dr. Linnehan visited Bulgaria on May 9–14 on the invitation of the US Embassy in Sofia and spoke about his experience as an astronaut in a series of meetings in Sofia and Plovdiv with space lovers young and old. He also attended the Sofia Science Festival, which ran from May 10 to 13. The youngest space enthusiasts had the opportunity to ask him questions and test the space facilities at Muzeiko Science Center. Dr. Linnehan explained how useful it is to learn math and science, especially if they want to become space explorers.

Physical discomfort aside, astronauts have an extremely important mission, Dr. Linnehan said—to explore the effects of the space environment on humans and animals and to find out if life in space would ever be possible.

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