|Breathing on the Space Station|
Chart #1 Represents the Most Natural
Mix of Air
Gases in the Earth's
1. Chart #1
tells us that our air is a mix of different gases. According to the table
and pie graph, what are the three major gases of the atmosphere?
Ideal Values for Atmospheric
Gases on Space Station Alpha
6. If the atmosphere in the space station started with this ideal mix before humans arrived, why do we have to worry about the space station's atmosphere?
Take a deep breath
- Now, don't let it out!
Something happens in the human body to the air that is breathed in. By studying and comparing all four Tables and Charts, we begin to understand, not only that the body uses the oxygen it breathes, but also that the body's natural processes produce a new mix of gases. On Earth, this is not an issue. There is a lot of air, more than enough for dangerous gases to disperse harmlessly. But on the space station, human emissions are an important issue.
The Dangers from Breathing
on the Space Station
Excessive accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may cause the astronauts to suffer from carbon dioxide poisoning. The astronauts also produce methane, ammonia, urea, and other poisons that are very natural gases for the body to produce, but they pollute the air in the Space Station. Consider the percentages of nitrogen and oxygen in Chart 3. The astronauts are using up the oxygen. If the atmosphere is not enriched with oxygen, the astronauts are in danger of hypoxia. Both hypoxia and carbon dioxide poisoning are serious conditions that threaten the astronauts both physically and mentally. Both conditions occur without a person becoming aware. In both conditions humans become disoriented-- unable to make clear, correct decisions.
Maintaining a correct amount of water vapor is also very important. Too much water vapor creates the danger of condensation. Too little water vapor increases the possible accumulation of static electricity and the danger of sparks.
On the space station, sensors attached to computers are constantly at work taking readings and sending signals to the equipment designed to make adjustments to the air's composition. Nitrogen and oxygen stored in tanks is released into the atmosphere upon command. Sensors are the eyes and ears of the space station's Environmental Controls and Life Support Systems Diagram. Maintaining a healthy atmosphere and a healthy atmospheric pressure on the Space Station is a constant challenge. There are multiple back-up and safety devices on board as well. If the mix of gases, the pressures of the different gases, and the total air pressure on board the space station are not monitored and maintained, the astronauts could be in danger without even knowing it.