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Sometimes we experience confusion where the north or south is especially when we are lying down or just awoken from sleep. Do astronauts experience something similar in space? If so, how do they overcome it?

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  • $\begingroup$ If you're standing on any habitable part of the Earth, then "East" is approximately the direction in which you see the rising Sun. Other compass points can be figured out from that. But what do you suppose "East" would mean to an astronaut "floating in space?" $\endgroup$ – Solomon Slow Jun 14 '19 at 13:36
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    $\begingroup$ Orientation on the space station is port (left), starboard (right), ram (forward), wake (aft), zenith (up), and nadir (down). $\endgroup$ – Paul Jun 14 '19 at 13:57
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Yes - disorientation is incredibly common. Almost all astronauts suffer this to a greater or lesser degree. For the most extreme end of this, read about Jake Garn...

The preferred solution is to do nothing - and simply adapt naturally over the first few days in space, however when in space suits, in order to avoid the extra danger vomiting in a space suit can cause, dimenhydrate transdermal patches are used.

In terms of identifying where they are, the simple solution is to look out the window, however this actually tends to increase motion sickness in space (opposite to being in a vehicle on Earth or at sea, where looking out the window helps settle things) so this is avoided in the first week or so.

In reality, directions in the ISS are all relative to the main axis of the ISS, and external directions are only really relevant in terms of looking at the Earth, or tracking incoming craft.

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  • $\begingroup$ Notably, one's immunity from vertigo or motion sickness as a jet pilot appears not to be a useful indicator of one's immunity or susceptibility to space sickness. Jake Garn had been a hot-shot jet pilot before he became a senator, and was hot to go into space, using his position on the committee that funds NASA to get his ride on the Space Shuttle. He was so space-sick during that trip that he established the astronauts' unofficial unit of space-sickness: the Garn. A person with one Garn of space-sickness is so sick they are essentially disabled. $\endgroup$ – Tom Spilker Jun 14 '19 at 19:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Tom - if you follow that link about Jake Garn... :-) $\endgroup$ – Rory Alsop Jun 15 '19 at 11:13
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Compass directions, North, etc are Earth based references. Once you leave the Earth they have little meaning to a person in space ship.

Think of it from a slightly different perspective. If you are standing on the moon, would East or West on the Earth help you navigate? No because you would be interested in Lunar (the Moon) directions. You can only travel towards Lunar North, etc.

The same applies in a spaceship or spacestation. Navigation is defined by the body you are on. Earth, ISS, Moon, Mars, etc.

Related What are these orientations called in orbit?

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    $\begingroup$ I think the essence of the OP’s question is clear and valid: Do astronauts experience disorientation while floating in space. $\endgroup$ – Paul Jun 14 '19 at 14:29
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! I greatly appreciate your answers. $\endgroup$ – unknownMe Jun 14 '19 at 23:36

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