On the final morning of Awards Weekend, astronaut Mike Fincke held a Q&A about living on the International Space Station. Here are my notes so I can do the whole verisimilitude thing the next time I'm writing near-future sci-fi set in Low Earth Orbit.
Space Adaptation Sickness
Many (but not all) astronauts experience Space Adaptation Sickness during their first few weeks on the station. If I understood Mike right, this is caused by fluid disbalances within the body because gravity is no longer pulling fluid toward the feet. Symptoms are similar to the common cold: swollen sinuses, headache and so forth.
Mike says that after the adaptation period has passed, you feel as good as or better than you did on Earth, because you're healthy and plus: (Mike's words) you can fly.
Up and Down
The International Space Station is designed with a very clear ceiling and floor to prevent astronauts from getting disoriented. Mike says he spent a day walking on the 'ceiling' and it drove his fellow astronauts crazy. He also said that some of the airlocks can deceive you: if you look down for a moment and lose your orientation, it can take a moment to figure out which door leads back to the station and which one opens on empty space.
Using Your Feet
Someone asked which details science fiction authors have gotten wrong in the past. Mike said that Heinlein -- although a fabulous writer -- once depicted a paraplegic as being basically no longer handicapped in space. But it turns out that astronauts use their feet all the time to maintain position; they sort of hook the foot over the handrail and use it to provide counterpressure when sitting in chairs. In fact, it seems that the complex seven-strap systems originally designed for astronauts are largely unecessary. A footrail positioned near the base of the chair gives the astronauts all the tools they need to stay put.