What Really Happens When An Astronaut Sneezes In A Space Suit

Science finds new things about space travel all the time, and on good days, it seems like it's only a matter of time until we're able to come up with the tools to conquer the universe. On all the other days, of course, we remember that humanity is still pretty far from happily gallivanting across galaxies. In fact, we're still figuring out our own solar system, and before we venture too far away from Earth, we have to figure out how to deal with all sorts of weird things space does to the human body. Which brings us to the matter at hand. 

The human body may be a wonderland, but it's also capable to do all sorts of things that will potentially cause trouble in the cold void of space. Take sneezing, for instance. As the Washington Post informs us, your average sneeze can travel at speeds of up to 100 mph, and as anyone who has ever sneezed can easily attest, that ill wind can carry a lot more than air. What happens if you sneeze all over the sensitive equipment of a space station? Or even worse, during a space walk? Let's take a look at what really happens when an astronaut sneezes in a space suit.

Aim low and hope for the best

As Tariq Malik of Space tells us, spacewalk sneezing isn't necessarily an enjoyable experience for the astronaut. While there's no mention that sneezing would wreck your spacesuit or anything, there's absolutely no way to cover your mouth, let alone clean up. The best case scenario, we imagine, is that your lovely views of the Earth would be obscured by a huge glob of mucus, while the nightmare situation would totally obscure your vision with droplets and goop. Neither would be a very pleasant experience, but fortunately, there's a way to avoid them. In 2009, veteran astronaut Dave Wolf revealed that astronauts are actually trained for space-sneezing situations, and the trick to avoid obscuring your vision is simple. "Aim low,off the windshield, because it can mess up your view and there's no way to clear it," Wolf advises. It makes sense, though one would be forgiven for secretly hoping a more high-tech solution. Tiny windscreen wipers, maybe.  

Curiously enough, astronauts have been known to complain about stuffiness in space, according to Live Science. NASA thinks this is because of pockets of carbon dioxide that form when they hang around in groups on the International Space Station. Still, people have been ill in space, and microgravity may wreak havoc with the immune system, so who knows? Maybe one day, Space Flu will be an official thing.