Cycling around the world

By | Category: Travel destinations
Susan Kilrain ne Still

Susan Kilrain at the photo- ops session for visitorts

I kid you not. This is how American astronaut, Susan Kilrain, orbited the earth. She cycled. But in the space shuttle.

Why?

Because in space lack of gravity means that muscles do little work. In order to stay fit and not let muscles an bone waste away. Exercise is not just important but vital. So Kilrain – who, when an astronaut, flew under her maiden name of Still – was cycling up to four hours a day to maintain fitness and two hours is the minimum. It’s not just a case of getting on an exercise bike either. It is necessary to get into a harness and be virtually strapped in. without that control, who knows where you might float to.

Kilrain is just one of the many astronauts that you can meet when you tour the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral in Florida. If you pay an extra charge ($29; $15.99 for children) then you can have lunch and after that, a retired astronaut chats about their experiences and answers questions. Afterwards there are photo opportunities with all who have lunched and I was surprised at how long Kilrain stayed around making sure that all who wanted could have their photograph taken with her.

As she cycled, she saw a sunset every 45 minutes and circled the world every 90 minutes. One of the advantages of weightlessness which saw a positive reaction from female members of the lunch was that face wrinkles tended to disappear. The bad news was that they returned when she got back to Earth.

biking exploration

It says “explore” at the entrance to the Kennedy Space Center. But by bike?

She was selected for the space programme after being a navy test pilot for F14 and F18 fighter planes. She – and the others – would train for between 6 months and a year for a shuttle mission and for up to nine months for a trip to the space station but all that training still didn’t prepare her for the odd feelings that any astronaut feels.  She described it as like traveling at speed over a hump-backed bridge. There is momentary queasiness but, whereas in a car over a bridge, the feeling disappears quickly, in space it can last a couple of days until your body acclimatises. She should know having spent over 900 hours in space during her two space missions.

And during question time guess what was her most often asked question? Yes, how do you manage to go to the toilet in space. Visit the Kennedy Space Center and you can find out!

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