Trivia

Hard

Space Sickness Is Measured In What Units?

Upchucks
Fuges
Drops
Garns
Senator Jake Garn's official photo for Shuttle Mission STS-51-D.
NASA

Answer: Garns

Just like motion sickness plagues passengers on boats and planes on Earth, it can also sneak up on astronauts rocketing into space and spending time on the International Space Station. Prior to 1985, however, astronauts simply called it motion sickness like the rest of us.

All of that changed when Senator Jake Garn tagged along on Shuttle Mission STS-51-D as a payload specialist. Garn was the first sitting member of Congress to fly in the space program and, thanks to the debilitating motion sickness he experienced on the flight, has been immortalized in Astronaut Corps lore.

In an interview for the Johnson Space Center Oral History Project, Dr. Robert Stevenson explained how Garn became a unit of measurement:

Jake Garn was sick, was pretty sick. I don’t know whether we should tell stories like that. But anyway, Jake Garn, he has made a mark in the Astronaut Corps because he represents the maximum level of space sickness that anyone can ever attain, and so the mark of being totally sick and totally incompetent is one Garn. Most guys will get maybe to a tenth Garn, if that high. And within the Astronaut Corps, he forever will be remembered by that.

So the next time you’re feeling a little car sick or woozy on a cruise, you can give thanks that you’re only a fractional Garn away from feeling better.

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