Just as travelers have limits on how much they can bring onto planes on Earth, there is a weight limit imposed on what can travel with astronauts into space. Most large airlines allow 50 lbs., while smaller in-country flights might accommodate just 10 lbs. To travel to the International Space Station, you get only 3.5 lbs. – that’s about 1/3 of the weight of one gallon of milk.
As I am starting to think about what to pack for my birthday trip to Namibia, I can’t help but give thought to the synergy between what an astronaut must consider preparing for a journey into low-Earth orbit, and what an earthling should consider when gearing to traverse the globe. What a contrast it is—what we bring and what we actually need. Over the years, I have learned that being compact is truly necessary the majority of the time. I am really trying to master this art (packing lightly), especially when traveling far away. So, now is a great time to reconsider a blog post I read last year written by astronaut Sunita (Suni) Williams’ called Packing for Earth. She has spent more than 300 days in space, so you can bet that she knows a thing or two about packing smart for a long journey.
Suni: “We don’t do laundry up here – we just get new stuff and “throw away” the old stuff…”
Stefanie: “Bring clothes that you don’t mind leaving behind, then, buy more along the way.”
Suni: “Being high tech, we have tried to go paperless as much as possible up here on the ISS.”
Stefanie: “Go paperless. Load your mobile device with maps, apps, train schedules, your itinerary, etc…”
Other handy packing tips that could be useful for trips on Earth and in space:
Arrange all of what you want to bring and remove half. Get the most out of what you pack. Bring things that have multiple uses. A great example is a handkerchief — it shields your skin from strong sun (getting burnt while traveling is no fun!); it can become a tourniquet, a washcloth, or used as a fly swatter. Use it to wrap up loose items, such as receipts and souvenirs, to safely cart home… and it weighs about an ounce.
When you become an agile traveler you can go farther. The last thing you want is for an extra pair of shoes to dictate whether you can squeeze in a visit to another country. And packing lightly does wonders for our environment as well—less weight, less fuel needed to power the ship!
Do you know packing solutions that can be used for travel on Earth and to space? Please share them in the comments section.