Furnishing a new home is pretty similar for most of us — Buy the bed that goes in the corner of the bedroom,wardrobe against the wall, sofa sits here, put the TV on that wall, shelves for books next to the work desk.
When designing for space though, things get a little strange.
Without gravity, our usually concept of furniture gets turned on its head. Do we really need a table when there isn’t gravity to keep things on it? Ditto a bookshelf. And while we’re at it, we can simply any side of that box we are in and make it functional in some way, since there is no real “up” or down” anyway?
Because of this most of the capsules in spacecraft are tremendously functional — which is good, since you don’t want to waste an inch if it takes gallons of fuel to haul things into space.
But in designing the habitation capsule for astronauts, it’s possible to go too far. We are, after all, designing for humans.
One of the things that space crews were adamant about keeping were dining tables.
It seems a most mundane thing thing to keep, giving that we can eat anywhere (TV dinners and grabbing lunch on the move). Yet it makes perfect sense.
The dining table, like the proverbial water cooler, is a place where people not only eat and drink together, but also chat (and gossip). We all love a good debate over dinner about whether the latest Star Wars lived up to the franchise.
In the description for this video showing the crew of the International Space Station, they write:
Dining together can radically shift perspectives, blurring boundaries just as looking down on Earth from our vantage point, especially, when dinner partners are from all different corners of the world. But also mealtime lets us build a sense of camaraderie.
It is a reminder that even in the void and vacuum, people are people, and we need to connect and mingle. Preferably over food.
Check out the video below if you’re wondering what dinner looks like on the ISS. I just love the way they (literally) bounce stuff off each other.