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There are lots of things that you’re allowed to do on earth that you absolutely can’t if you’re an astronaut. Some of them you wouldn’t expect.

Hosted by: Hank Green
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Hank: For the several months that astronauts spend on their missions, the International Space Station is home. But it’s also where they work, and all workplaces have rules. When your office is 400 kilometers up in space, those rules can get strict. So there are lots of things that you’re allowed to do down here that you absolutely can’t if you’re an astronaut.

One big rule in space? NO SEX ALLOWED.

The International Space Station, which is the only place where humans live in space right now, only has about 388 cubic meters of living space for a full crew of 6 people. That’s close quarters, so, needless to say, an intimate relationship could complicate things. Plus astronauts are considered civil servants -- and colleagues who have to work with one another every day -- so they need to keep it professional, even if they’re living together too.

On top of that, we’re not really sure what would happen if an astronaut got pregnant in space. Without the constraint of gravity, and Earth’s protection from cosmic radiation, there could be a lot of risks for a developing fetus. The bumpy ride and close quarters of the return trip wouldn’t be great for a pregnant astronaut, either.

And speaking of things that aren’t good for pregnant people... Booze. Alcohol is another thing astronauts can’t have in space. They have to keep their wits about them on the Space Station, of course. There’s a lot of delicate equipment and experiments that could be easily ruined by a drunk astronaut. But this hasn’t been the rule for all space travelers. Russian cosmonauts have been allowed, and even encouraged, to drink in space since the 1980s! But something about booze in space has always struck a sour note with the American public.

For example, after the announcement that sherry would be on the menu aboard Skylab, America’s first space station in the 1970s, angry letters flooded into NASA headquarters. Some people were just not okay with astronauts drinking in space. After that, NASA created a no-booze policy, and so far it’s stood the test of time.

On Apollo 8, for example, astronauts got miniature bottles of brandy to enjoy with their Christmas dinner - but Frank Borman, their commander, ordered them not to drink it until after they got back to Earth. Now, not only can’t astronauts drink alcohol - they also aren’t allowed to have... bread... Or anything that creates crumbs.

An astronaut on the 1969 Gemini 3 mission smuggled a corned beef sandwich into space, but after one bite, it crumbled apart, and crumbs went everywhere. As crumbs float around the spacecraft, they can get into scientific equipment or important air vents. Plus, if you’ve ever gotten dust in your eye or accidentally inhaled a piece of food, you know how unpleasant that can be.

So, partially to avoid the crumb situation, astronaut food was mostly tubes of goo or bite-sized cubes of compressed, dehydrated food. By the corned-beef incident in 1969, the food was getting closer to normal, but it was still all coated in gelatin to prevent crumbs. Now that astronauts remain in space for months, and food technology keeps getting better, the food in space is much more like regular Earth food - just tidier, and without bread.

For example, foods like sandwiches and pizza are possible, but they’re served on tortillas instead of bread or crust. And it’s a good thing that astronaut food isn’t messy, because astronauts also aren’t allowed to do laundry! They wear the same underwear for 3 or 4 days, and some astronauts will wear the same work outfit every day for months without washing it! There just isn’t a way to wash clothes in space efficiently, and washing it by hand would be a waste of the limited water they have on the Space Station.

Luckily, things don’t get dirty as quickly on the station -- it’s very clean and temperature-controlled. And astronauts’ sense of smell isn’t as good in space, so BO isn’t as much of a problem. But they do have to work out a lot to maintain their muscle and bone mass, so astronauts’ clothes eventually get dirty. And when they do, they’re packed up with the rest of the station’s garbage and sent to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere.

This solution seems wasteful, though, so in the future astronauts might feed their underwear to bacteria. The bacteria could digest the dirty undies and release useful methane gas that could help power the spacecraft. An underwear-powered spaceship! Why not? But the point is, there are rules in space, and not just that you can’t faster than the speed of light, or you can’t step outside without a spacesuit on. If you want to have sex, or have a beer, or simply do a load of laundry, you’re just gonna have to wait until you get home.

Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow Space, and thanks especially to our patrons on Patreon who help make this show possible so that we can talk about whatever we want to talk about without having to worry about what the sponsor's gonna think of us sometimes. If you want to help us keep making episodes like this, just go to to learn more. And don’t forget to go to and subscribe!