Story #2 — Can You Fly on the Vacuum Cleaner
Zero Gravity is an environment in which a person lives in the space station. It forces you to change your viewpoints about objects. For example, the package of the space food in small quantity induced by food in zero gravity creates a lot of inconvenience. When we sit down at the table to have dinner, we are surrounded with many objects; cup, spoon, fork, bread, napkin, knife and steak. . . In zero gravity all these things have the ability to fly around us. A cosmonaut doesn’t have enough hands to hold around himself all the objects he needs when eating. He has to hold the spoon with two fingers, another two fingers – the juice, and on top of that a piece of bread, etc. But the most unpleasant thing – is when you eat something it crumbles. It is not that they are just flying around you and trying to get in your nose and eyes; they can seriously damage the spaceship equipment, and to get them out and clean the ship is very difficult. That is why on the space station Salute 7, we started to eat with the vacuum cleaner on. Running the vacuum cleaner near us would prevent crumbs from flying around the space station. But it turned out that this new function of the vacuum cleaner wasn’t the only one.
Because our flight with V. Lebedev was part of a very long expedition (it lasted 211 days), the flight control command center everyday would conduct for us “psychological” sessions. It was a meeting with our wives, children, friends even famous actors and musicians. It was considered that it would strengthen our psychological stability and help us to endure our disconnection from Earth life. Because our relatives were worried and thinking about us much more than we were thinking about them (because we were busy with work) very often instead of this, we would just demonstrate our psychological stability and entertain our guests. My children were 8 and 12 years old at that time and they were not aware of what space flight was and what their daddy was doing in space.
One of these sessions happened to be a birthday of my daughter and she had just started at school. Valentine and I were thinking a lot of how we could surprise and entertain from the viewpoint of education. Finally we decided to demonstrate rocket propulsion using for an example . . . the vacuum cleaner. As you know when a vacuum cleaner is working one side sucks in the air and the other side expels out the air. In zero gravity, the vacuum cleaner will move like a rocket because of the expelled air. The “session” of connection to my family started and we began to explain what happened when working a vacuum cleaner in zero gravity. But the sound transmission was going on and off and my 8 year old daughter couldn’t understand anything we were saying. She was almost crying. Then Valentine suddenly sat on the vacuum cleaner and turned it on. His flight was very short, because the equipment in the space station could be upset very easily, but we heard a loud laugh from our children on earth! The difficult explanation suddenly became very clear to them and this demonstration created a lot of applauding. After that, the center of flight on Earth suggested that we do a whole lesson for school children about how rockets move in space. On the space station, any object can perform many different functions, as well as the Cosmonaut himself!
Pilot, Cosmonaut, Hero of the Soviet Union
Story #1 – How to Stay Warm in the Space Station|