There are now more millionaires in the world than at any time in history. Space flight is now an available tourism option for millionaires. Put the two together, and you have a whole new social dynamic: Space tourism etiquette.
We're not talking about the three minutes of weightlessness you'll get on a $200,000 Virgin Galactic flight, but the $20 million day or so stay in orbit possible on a Soyuz capsule launched by the Russian space agency. The socially elite travel set who can afford these space-flights of fancy are in for some rude awakenings once they start booking trips to the final frontier.
- You're probably going to throw up. If hardened military test pilot can't help but toss their cookies in orbital microgravity, the trust fund set can't expect to do much better.
- You may be catheterized. The anti-nausea drug Phenergan used to combat point #1 often leads to urinary retention, which is a nice way of saying you won't be able to use the awkward space toilets mentioned in point #3, and will have to seek some rather embrassing and painful medical remedies. It's already happened to four astronauts during flight.
- You'll have to clean your own toilets. There are as yet no space butlers or astro-maids, and nothing tweaks a close-quarters space crew like a jerk who doesn't "lift the lid," especially when uncaptured refuse is able to float about the cabin. Memo to Richie Rich: Your aim is appreciated.
- Even in space, you can't stare at the Sun. Yes, it would be great to get an orbital sunset picture for the grandkids (or your blog), but staring at ol' Sol is just as dangerous in orbit as on the ground, if not moreso. At least one astronaut has suffered retinal scarring for trying just such a stunt.
- Get ready for an extreme haircut. Washing and drying hair in microgravity can take hours, especially when you're required to prevent stray moisture from floating about, so you have to meticulously dab your mane dry. The old Apollo buzz-cut wasn't just a military holdover, but a practical hygenic accommodation that all would-be space tourists—women included—better wrap their heads around.
- No wine, no coffee, just water. Back to the stray moisture issue again, drinking with meals is the leading cause of free-floating fluids in spacecraft, and those droplets eventually collide with (at best) the hull and (at worst) sensitive instruments, leaving damaging or disgusting residue. Water has the lowest evaporative fallout from such incidents, so expect that to be the staple beverage on any and all orbital jaunts.
- Duct tape in the bathroom. In an environment where everything can float away from you, sturdy adhesive tape can be your best friend. This is especially true when it comes to personal hygiene, where everything from dental floss to fingernail clippings can be cleaned up using duct tape. Otherwise, you've got the equivalent of a bathroom trashcan sharing personal airspace with the crew, and not even $20 million buys you out of that big a faux pas.
Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger — amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can also follow him on his personal blog.