Why can’t you cry in space? The inability to shed tears in outer space begs the question: why?
Is it due to the vacuum of space, or because astronauts are just built differently?
Or, is it because your tears would solidify into dangerous weapons? Is it because there is nowhere for anyone to see you cry in the vastness of space?
Let us investigate the science behind this cosmic mystery and find out what happens if you cry in space.
Gravity is necessary for tears to flow down our faces, so they do not fall into space, and build up in the eyes, causing discomfort and impairing eyesight.
The Problem of Crying in Space
So, astronauts can laugh the same way we do on Earth, but crying in space is handled differently due to the lack of gravity.
When an astronaut cries, their tears do not run down their face. Instead, the tears pool near their eyes and might be a bit painful as well.
If they do not dry their eyes, the teardrop will swell and drift away.
The astronauts can literally see a ball of their own tears floating about in space. Weird, right?
How does Crying work in Space?
To understand how crying works in outer space, it is important to first define tears and investigate their function.
Everyone knows that water, salt, and other components of tears help maintain healthy eye function.
On one side, tears help keep our eyes moist, and on another, they wash away foreign objects that may have made their way into our eyes.
But, you also witness tears when you experience intense feelings like joy or sorrow.
Whatever the reason for having that liquid draining out of your eyes, know that it works differently in space.
Fact: Interestingly, you cannot whistle in space because of an absence of air to carry the sound.
The Process of Tear Production, Drainage, and Gravity
Tears are produced in specialized glands called lacrimal glands located in the outer corner of each eye.
When we blink, our tears stretch out and cover the entire eye, making us feel warm and fuzzy.
The tears then drain through puncta, small pores in the inner corners of our eyelids.
Similarly, nasolacrimal ducts are the tubes through which tears are transported before entering the nose.
This is the incredible trip that our tears endure ensuring the health of our eyes. But what’s the role of gravity here?
Tears and the Role of Gravity
Here on Earth, we benefit from gravity in a number of different ways.
The movement of our tears over our eyes and out of our eyes through tiny holes becomes possible due to gravity.
In space, however, there is significantly less gravity than on Earth, thus tears do not flow in the same way they do here.
While in space, fluids do not always behave as expected; sometimes they float aimlessly or even stick to our eyeballs.
Fact: Because of the absence of convection to carry the smell, you cannot notice the aroma of food in space.
Why Can’t You Cry in Space?
So, is it impossible to cry in space? Of course not! But, is it the same as it is on Earth? Not at all!
As there is no gravity in space, shedding tears has a different effect than it does on Earth.
Tears normally run down your cheeks and into a tissue or pool on the floor.
On the contrary, in space, tears do not drain, so they pool at the corner of your eye and are referred to as a “blob.”
Astronauts may find this bothersome and unpleasant, which is why it is important not to cry in space.
Here are some other reasons suggesting why crying in space is not the best idea:
The tears of an astronaut, unlike those on Earth, may interfere with their vision if they shed any of their own tears in space.
It can be difficult to see if tears have pooled and blurred the view.
Altered Tear Drainage
The absence of gravity also interferes with the normal drainage of tears.
Unlike on Earth, it is possible that tears will not drain into the puncta and travel down the nasolacrimal ducts.
But, instead, they will pool around the eye or spread across the face.
Because of the lack of gravity, astronauts may need to manually wipe away the tears or remove them with their fingers, and it can cause some issues.
Is It Impossible to Cry in Space?
Tears are a common form of emotional expression, especially during moments of intense feeling.
The rules change in space, though, where gravity is so weak.
As a result, astronauts who feel the need to cry face challenges in doing so.
Here, you have to understand more about the impact of microgravity on crying by discussing this phenomenon in space.
Crying in Microgravity
There are significant differences between sobbing on Earth and crying in a weightless environment like space.
In zero gravity, tears pool on the surface of the eye rather than draining away.
The astronaut may experience irritation and eyesight problems as tears build up.
The lack of gravity in space causes tears to change their behavior.
They may instead remain on the surface of the eye or migrate over the face, causing irritation and obscuring the astronaut’s vision.
Emotional Crying in Space
Professional astronauts are trained to deal with the emotional stresses of space travel. Crying is a rare emotional response for astronauts, although it is possible.
Astronauts are still human and can experience a wide range of emotions during their mission, despite being in a foreign environment.
Exhilaration at seeing Earth from above to frustration from being confined for so long are only two examples.
Space crying presents some novel difficulties, but it poses no health risks to astronauts.
In fact, it can be a beneficial method for astronauts to handle their feelings and maintain their mental health while on missions.
Yet, astronauts require additional care to keep their eyes clean and pleasant due to the changed behavior of tears in microgravity.
What Else Can You Not Do in Space?
You might have gathered why it is not a great idea to cry in space.
But, it may come as a surprise that there are many other things you should avoid doing in space.
No More Soda and Bread
Due to microgravity, eating in space has its own set of obstacles.
Crumbs from conventional foods, such as bread, can be a nuisance and even dangerous if they are breathed.
Tortillas have been employed as a workaround for this problem.
Carbonated beverages are likewise not recommended for space travel since their carbonation does not separate in zero gravity.
Liquid versions of salt and pepper have been introduced to reduce the likelihood of floating trash.
Fact: Bread was first consumed in space on NASA's 1965 Gemini 3 mission.
No More Writing with Regular Pens
The ink in the pen needs to be pulled downward by gravity so that it can reach the writing tip.
At first, American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts avoided this issue using only mechanical pencils.
In 1965, however, the Fisher Pen Company developed a unique pen that avoided this problem.
In this pen, the ink is pushed toward the tip of the pen by nitrogen gas pressurizing the cartridge.
This makes it possible to write in inverted positions, water, and outer space.
No Alcohol in Space
Sherry and other alcoholic beverages were considered for inclusion in astronauts’ meals in 1972.
But, the idea was scrapped when public outcry led to a prohibition of alcoholic beverages in orbit.
There is a strict prohibition on alcoholic beverages aboard the ISS.
According to BBC, however, Russian cosmonauts are supposedly allowed to drink Cognac to boost their immune systems.
This difference has cultural and political roots, rather than a purely scientific explanation.
No More Hot Showers
Water is both heavy and expensive to deliver, so astronauts must be mindful of how much they use in space.
Because of this, advanced techniques for water recycling have become commonplace.
For instance, astronauts use water collected from several sources (including air humidity, urine, and cleaning) to take sponge baths.
Purified drinking water is produced on the ISS by collecting moisture from the air and human waste.
Space travelers often recycle the same garments because there is no convenient method to clean them.
Fact: It is not possible to belch or burp in space because the absence of gravity makes it difficult for the gas to separate from the liquid in your stomach.
Why can’t you cry in space?
Due to the lack of a gravitational pull, tears in microgravity pool under the eyes and may possibly cause permanent harm.
Also, because tears cannot flow downhill in the absence of gravity, they are unable to escape the eye and cause the typical crying motion we are accustomed to on Earth.