What Supplies Do You Need to Survive in Space?

By Chris Deziel
Astronaut walking on the moon

If you're planning a trip to space, you'd better take a few things along. Actually, you'll need more than a few things -- you'll need everything a human being needs to survive in an environment that lacks food, water, air, room to move and gravity. Unless you're planning to be outside the solar system, your space ship should provide protection from solar radiation. If you're taking a long trip, bring something to keep yourself occupied.

A Space Ship

Firstly, whether it's a suit that fits around your body or a larger vehicle that gives you some freedom of movement, you need a space ship if you're going into space. Humans can only survive for about 15 seconds in the vacuum of space without a protective shell, and even if they could survive longer, they would quickly receive a fatal dose of radiation from the sun. An efficient spaceship like the International Space Station reuses 93 percent of the waste water generated by its occupants, converting it into either clean water or oxygen. It also jettisons flammable waste gases, such as hydrogen and methane, into space.

Food and Water

Every astronaut needs a personal supply of water. Water is a fundamental necessity, not only to keep the body alive, but to keep it clean, and it's an essential additive for the foods that accompany astronauts into space, which are dehydrated. Preferred space foods are those that don't crumble -- weightless crumbs get in everyone's way and can clog up instruments. Astronauts who stay in space for an extended period need a variety of foods for a balanced diet, and because weightlessness dulls the sense of taste, many prefer spicy ones.

Hygiene and Health Supplies

Personal hygiene is just as important in space as it is on Earth; astronauts on the ISS can take showers, but they usually do it with a sponge. In addition, they use soap and shampoo that work without water. Each astronaut has a personal toothbrush and toothpaste, because a toothache can be a real problem when no dentist is available. To counteract the atrophying effect of weightlessness on the leg and lower back muscles, anyone going to space for an extended period needs exercise machines; the astronauts on the ISS use a cycle ergometer, treadmill or Advanced Resistive Exercise Device for at least two hours a day.

Music and Relaxation

If musical instruments aren't on your A-list of space supplies, you should rethink your list. Psychologists have found that listening to and playing music help maintain a sense of normalcy and connection to Earth-bound life. The ISS astronauts have guitars, a flute, a saxophone and other instruments available for jamming and recording in space. You may be able to entertain yourself by watching water droplets float around in the zero-gravity environment, but when that novelty wears off, you'll be happy you packed a collection of books, CDs and an Internet-capable computer so you can stay in touch with people on the ground.

About the Author

A love of fundamental mysteries led Chris Deziel to obtain a bachelor's degree in physics and a master's degree in humanities. A prolific carpenter, home renovator and furniture restorer, Deziel has been active in the building and home design trades since 1975. As a landscape builder, he helped establish two gardening companies.