Is NASA turning to ethanol as a fuel?

For its astronauts, that is. Not for its spacecraft.
Allegations that NASA crew members got plastered — not just tipsy, but good and pissed — right before scheduled lift-off on at least two occasions have surfaced. One of the flights was a (no laughing) Russian Soyuz mission and the other a Space Shuttle expedition that was ultimately postponed for unrelated reasons.


The emerging story is apparently the result of an investigation ordered by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin in the wake of the bizarre Lisa Nowak incident in February. The agency’s chief medical officer, Dr. Richard S. Williams, set up a panel to review astronaut medical and psychological screening, and so far, it appears that NASA’s attention to the mental health of its fliers leaves something to be desired.
Of course, there’s also the unavoidable question of whether anyone willing to be blasted into outer space for any reason might have a unique set of psychological characteristics, adaptive or otherwise, that might predispose them to erratic behaviors. This would seem to be jumping the gun, but is probably not outside the realm of speculation.
This brings up a somewhat related topic: How easy it would be to get drunk when you’ve been in space for a few days compared to imbiming on Earth. What happens in a zero-gravity environment is that under the influence of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone hormonalaxis, overall blood volume decreases, although central venous volume increases thanks to redistribution. So it should be easy to rack up a higher BAC for every drink consumed. That’s all I remember from my physiology course, so that’s all I’m going to write, because I don’t feel like surfingthe Web to verify any of it.

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  1. #1 by Bill from Dover on July 27, 2007 - 11:09 pm

    Blasted in space. Whoda ever thunk?

  2. #2 by The Primate Diaries on July 27, 2007 - 11:15 pm

    The recent NASA snafus are finally starting to form a pattern. Alcohol is mostly absorbed in the intestines and the resulting ethanol toxicity causes these cells to stop retaining liquid. Then there will be an excess of fluid from the intestinal lining that won’t be absorbed. Now we know what the diapers are for!

  3. #3 by The Primate Diaries on July 27, 2007 - 11:15 pm

    The recent NASA snafus are finally starting to form a pattern. Alcohol is mostly absorbed in the intestines and the resulting ethanol toxicity causes these cells to stop retaining liquid. Then there will be an excess of fluid from the intestinal lining that won’t be absorbed. Now we know what the diapers are for!

  4. #4 by sailor on July 28, 2007 - 7:07 am

    “Of course, there’s also the unavoidable question of whether anyone willing to be blasted into outer space for any reason might have a unique set of psychological characteristics”
    Let us put it another way, Wouldn’t knowing someone was just about to blast you off the only planet you have ever called home into space where your very survival depends on a space suit holding up, warrant getting drunk?

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