Thousands of our nation's brightest engineers, mathematicians, and scientists dream of moving to Houston. Why? Does this Texas town have beautiful year-round weather? No. Is the City free of traffic jams and pollution? Hardly. Is this oil and gas hub a recreational or cultural mecca? Nope.
So what could possibly explain Houston's gravitational force, that has the best of the best eager to uproot? Four capital letters: NASA.
NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston is home to the Astronaut Training Center and Mission Control. Knowing it will invest $600,000 to $1,000,000 in each candidate's first year of training, NASA painstakingly scrutinizes 10,000 applicants every two years to finally select 20 astronaut prospects. Most have "astronomical" I.Q.'s and resumes an inch thick.
Of the 144 cosmonauts currently on NASA's payroll, more than 60% have flown into space and endured the physical demands exacted on the body beyond Earth's atmosphere. Exposure to dangerous levels of radiation, changes in atmospheric pressure, and the loss of gravity all take a toll while in space. It is not unusual for astronauts to grow 2-inches taller, lose 30% of their strength and cardio fitness, and suffer a 20% total-body bone loss. To delay this environmental onslaught, astronauts are encouraged to work out during their mission.
En route, space shuttle voyagers stick to their fitness regimen by pedaling on a cycle ergometer (stationary bike). At their destination, the explorers exercise at the most exclusive and private health club in the universe, the International Space Station (ISS). That's right, along with its astronomical and scientific functions; the ISS provides a workout room containing 1 treadmill, 1 cycle ergometer, and a weight training device. Unfortunately no amount of exercise in space will prepare the human body for its homecoming.
Once returning to Earth, cosmonauts commonly suffer debilitating symptoms such as poor balance, lightheadedness, and nausea. Approximately 40% cannot stand for more than 10 minutes without fainting. It takes nearly a month for their human bodies to begin readjusting to our environment.
Hmmm, sounds a little like how we feel after an Ironman triathlon race. Maybe we should apply to NASA-though that I.Q. thing might pose a problem.