Space… It Does a Body Weird

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The recent release of The Martian had us wondering: How would living in space actually affect Matt Damon’s body? Would his skin age at a ludicrous speed? Would his hair grow like Rapunzel’s? To get some answers, we talked to retired astronaut and author of The Ordinary Spaceman, Clayton Anderson, who spent 152 days aboard the International Space Station.

Though it may come as a surprise, reducing gravity to a fraction earth’s doesn’t really do that much to the body. Hair grows at the same pace, nails grow at the same rate and five o’clock shadow still comes in at five o’clock. That being said, according to Anderson, gravity does cause two changes to our bodies that you might not expect. Namely, the need for foot files and hot sauce:

“Because astronauts don’t use the bottoms of their feet in microgravity, their calluses begin to separate and flake off. Also, a lot of astronauts claim that they lose their sense of taste after spending some time in space, so they put Sriracha and TABASCO on everything.”

As mysterious as the whole lizard-feet situation might sound, it’s pretty straightforward. In lower gravity, the calluses on the bottoms of your feet aren’t constantly bearing the entire weight of your body, so they soften up and fall off. For instance, the gravitational pull of Mars is only 38 percent of that on Earth, meaning that if Damon weighs 100 pounds here on Earth, he’d only weigh 38 pounds on the Red Planet.

The fading sense of taste is more complex. But essentially, the fluids in an astronaut’s body rise up into their head when they enter into a low-gravity environment. These fluids cause congestion, and ultimately, block the astronaut’s sense of smell, which is unfortunate, because 90 percent of what people perceive as taste is actually smell.

So that’s why astronauts load up on hot sauce—they can still feel the heat even if they can’t taste the heat.

And lucky for Mr. Damon, tabasco can be bought by the gallon.