What do astronauts do to stay regular?

Astronaut bureaucracy on the ISS

Deutsche Welle: Astronauts have to carry out an abundance of experiments on the International Space Station and have a lot of tasks. How tight is your working day actually? And do you have normal free time, like we do down here?

Volker Schmid: An astronaut's working day is not that different from that on earth. Of course he is in an excellent and unique environment. But he works eight hours - sometimes nine or ten if overtime is necessary. It's just like in normal life. In addition, there are eight hours of sleep and two hours of exercise every day. This is important for the muscles, bones and metabolism to function properly.

What about the rest of the day?

It consists of eating, personal hygiene and social contacts, making phone calls or video conferences or watching films. Briefings with colleagues also sometimes take place in their free time. But on the whole it is not that different - except that the pace is set by the planning on the ground. The planners are making sure that all of the 300 experiments on the Horizons mission can be processed as well as possible.

Volker Schmid is responsible for planning and supervising the DLR research projects during the Horizons mission.

And how many working days are there in the week?

It's like on earth: Saturday is half a working day. The other half is cleaned. It is, so to speak, the cleaning week in the modules of the ISS.

Sunday is free. Holidays are usually also free.

What public holidays are there on the ISS? There are German, American and Russian public holidays. So do the astronauts and cosmonauts have different holidays?

Yes, they basically have their national holidays. But this may not be strictly implemented. Independence Day in the USA is one of those public holidays on which nothing happens on the ISS. However, on the day of German reunification on October 3rd, I already know that Alexander Gerst has something to do as commander.

Do the astronauts also take on voluntary tasks that they are not even allowed to do during working hours?

Yes, they are often busy with educational programs on the weekend or in the rest of their free time. They carry out the so-called pocket experiments for students who have developed them in their classes.

Even when Alexander Gerst takes photos of the earth and posts them on Twitter, it happens in his spare time.

Two hours of exercise are the daily minimum. In 2016 Tim Peake ran the London Marathon in space.

More: Astro_Alex is doing fantastic!

Do they work overtime up there or do the astronauts hang around when they get back to earth?

No, nobody loiteres up there. The astronauts like to do what needs to be done up there. No matter who is up there, they try to get the maximum out of the mission, no matter how long it takes and no matter how hard it is to do it.

During Alexander Gerst's last mission, the Blue Dot Mission, we saw that the "McGuyver mode" comes into play [after the action film hero of the same name] when something doesn't work out. Then Alex answers and screws and saws and makes and does so that it slips and works. We and the experimenters depend on it. This can ensure the success of the mission.

Soap bubbles for a student experiment - something that Alexander Gerst does in his spare time

What do the astronauts do when they notice that they won't be ready before work? Do you leave the experiment you started halfway through until the next morning?

When the end of work is approaching and there is still an activity that would take two hours, the astronaut leaves it and sees whether there is anything else he could do in the last half hour and discusses this with the ground team .

But he has to make sure that the project he is stuck with is properly and securely locked and tidied up. So he is not allowed to hang a cable somewhere or park something in the aisle that someone else could bump into.

Volker Schmid is DLR Mission Manager for the ISS Horizons Mission.

Fabian Schmidt asked the questions

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    Author: Valentin Betz