Space Travel Can Feel Like a Bad Hangover
published during a waning gibbous moon.
06/23/2016

Bad Hangover

Credit: ESA/Stephane Corvaja

Being in space is a lot like a happy hour. Your vision changes and you experience a joyous weightlessness — but instead of a tasty cocktail, you drink recycling urine and sweat. That’s why when European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Tim Peake made it back to Earth last week, he described his recovery as the “world’s worst hangover.”

After half a year in space, Peake spoke at his first Earthly news conference just three days after landing. Despite the wicked vertigo and dizziness he felt while adjusting back to gravity, Peake was smiling and sprightly, albeit looking a little thinner. Peake is the first “official” British astronaut in space and is known for the majestic photos he took of Earth’s strikingly molded topography while aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

Bad Hangover

Credit: Tim Peake/ESA/NASA

But about that wicked hangover.

Though human bodies are resilient, they go through some extreme changes when adjusting to weightlessness. Not only do your bones deteriorate, you’re also more susceptible to kidney stones. Weightlessness can also cause fluid to shift in your head, putting some pressure on your brain and eyes that can affect how you see. Peake experienced dizziness and vertigo anytime he moved his head while adjusting back to Earth, the Guardian reported. He was also exposed to a radiation dose equal to that of 1,200 chest x-rays, which can increase his risk of cancer.

Thus, the cure for his 186-day happy hour began.

“What’s amazing is, again, how quickly the human body adapts to a new environment,” Peake said at the conference, “and it’s something I experienced when I first went up into space and was amazed after just 24 hours living onboard the space station how quickly I was able to function.”

But adjustment coming the other way back home is a bit slower and a bit harder, he said. Peake is currently in rehabilitation training, which involves cycling, cross-training, and balancing exercises. While aboard the ISS, Peake had to meticulously monitor his health, even having to draw his own blood regularly. Some days, he said, he was able to help conduct upwards of seven experiments.

When asked what was going through his mind during his descent, Peake admitted that his childhood giddiness has never quite dissolved.

“The descent is a really exciting ride. You’ve got two minds, really. One as a professional, and certainly as a test pilot, I was really wanting to analyze the spacecraft, thinking about the dynamics of what was happening,” he said. “But at the same time, you can’t help the sort of boy inside you that’s enjoying this fantastic ride back from space.”

Bad Hangover

Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

And after all the work adjusting back to Earth, would Peake go back?

Having already conferred with his wife (and as we have all done even after our biggest nights out), he replied, “I would do it again in a heartbeat.”