"How do astronauts scratch their noses?"

Written by Paul Sutter on Monday, 18 July 2016. Posted in From The Desk of...The Chief Scientist

You're three hours into your spacewalk. Suspended 250 miles above the surface of the Earth, you can see the night-day terminator line creeping its way across the Sahara. You focus on your tasks, trying not to think too much about your circumstances. Just a few layers of synthetic fabrics separate you and the relentlessly overwhelming vacuum. Tethers that looks a lot thinner than you remember are your only connection to the space station. You can hear your own breathing inside your helmet; the warmth of the suit has begun to fog up your faceplate.

And it happens. You have an itch on your nose.

Instinctively, you bring your hand up to scratch, but succeed only in uselessly thumping your helmet. The movement unbalances you, nudging yourself into a slight backwards roll. Sigh.

Thankfully, you're not the first astronaut to experience such issues, and over the years your predecessors have come up with a few solutions. There are all sorts of things inside your helmet, like a microphone, a device to pinch your nose so you can readjust pressure in your ears, and a few controls.

But what gets the job done is a little patch of velcro, situated in just the right spot for scratching.

About the Author

Paul Sutter

Paul Sutter

Paul Sutter is COSI's Chief Scientist. He is an astrophysicist and offers a wealth of knowledge about our universe. In addition to his COSI position, Paul Sutter is a Cosmological Researcher and Community Outreach Coordinator at The Ohio State University's Center for Cosmology and AstroParticle Physics (CCAPP).