A $35 Million Week-Long Vacation (In Space)

This morning astronaut Leroy Chiao spent some time with us at Big Think to chat about his four tours in outer space and his role as director at Excalibur Almaz, a recreational space travel outfit headquartered in the Isle of Man. Seven days in space will cost about $35M, says Chiao, "based on market prices."


The forty-nine year-old Asian-American was remarkably humble about his many achievements, including logging a total of 229 days, 7 hours, 38 minutes and 5 seconds in space, including 36 hours and 7 minutes clocked during six space walks. What do you need to be an astronaut? "A bachelor's degree and a good heart," Chiao cheerfully replied.

Chiao witnessed a unique moment in history in the early 90's, when Russian cosmonauts first visited NASA in the post-Cold War era. They were all viewed with skepticism, he said. Now fluent in both Mandarin and Russian, Chiao worked very hard to excel in the latter because the cosmonauts who had mastered English, "Those were the ones you trusted."

As Chairman of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) User Panel, Chiao is an expert on health concerns related to long-duration space travel, including bone and muscle loss, radiation exposure and even sleep troubles. The good news? Most of the breakthroughs being made to help astronauts can be applied to folks "on the ground."

A dark matter hurricane is crashing into Earth

Giving our solar system a "slap in the face."

Surprising Science
  • A stream of galactic debris is hurtling at us, pulling dark matter along with it
  • It's traveling so quickly it's been described as a hurricane of dark matter
  • Scientists are excited to set their particle detectors at the onslffaught
Keep reading Show less

We are heading for a New Cretaceous, not for a new normal

The climate change we're witnessing is more dramatic than we might think.

Image credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center from Greenbelt, MD, USA
Surprising Science

A lazy buzz phrase – 'Is this the new normal?' – has been doing the rounds as extreme climate events have been piling up over the past year. To which the riposte should be: it's worse than that – we're on the road to even more frequent, more extreme events than we saw this year.

Keep reading Show less

New study reveals what time we burn the most calories

Once again, our circadian rhythm points the way.

Photo: Victor Freitas / Unsplash
Surprising Science
  • Seven individuals were locked inside a windowless, internetless room for 37 days.
  • While at rest, they burned 130 more calories at 5 p.m. than at 5 a.m.
  • Morning time again shown not to be the best time to eat.
Keep reading Show less