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Beard Blog

8/04/2009 04:18:00 PM

There's hair on my face. Maybe you're wondering why.

One of my least favorite things about "normal" life is shaving. It's time-consuming and painful. Plus, a few hours after going through all of the trouble to shave, the hair comes back. When I started doing scientific field work about 11 years ago I made myself a promise:

Field work time is a holiday from shaving.


In other words, it's against the rules to shave when I'm out on extended field expeditions. This tenet has served me well over the years. If I'm going to cold places, the beard helps insulate me and protects my face from windburn. In hot climates, the hairy cover means I don't need as much sunscreen. Furthermore, when working under the time and logistical constraints of an expedition, one doesn't generally have time for frivolous things like shaving. Growing facial hair is also a good measure of the passage of time, and there is just something so satisfying when the hairs start to get bleached by the sun.

When I do make it into space, I'll have to decide whether to continue my no-shaving rule or conform to the typical clean-cut image we're used to seeing for astronauts. I wonder what NASA's policy is on shaving. I haven't seen too many astronauts with beards outside of the movies 2001: A Space Odyssey and Planet of the Apes when the space travelers wake up from hibernation. The Mars astronaut lego figure shown here is sporting some stubble.

This is the seventh time I've grown a full beard on an extended expedition like FMARS. At five weeks, FMARS is the second longest period I've gone without shaving (the longest being 8 or 9 weeks). Here are some pictures of my beard growth over the course of the mission:



Okay, now it's time to shave!

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Location: Ewa Beach, HI, USA



9 comments:

KurtMac said...

If I remember correctly and if photographic evidence proves me right: http://bit.ly/1eBqn the SkyLab astronauts were sporting some gnarly beards. I wonder too if NASA currently has a "grooming" policy, I've only seen more recent ISS astronauts wearing mustaches at most. Of course, once you're off the launch pad and out in space, what are they going to do about it? :)

Ethan Siegel said...

I like the beard; personally I think we should all get together to bring the Lincoln back into style...

SteveandAlina said...

I seem to remember you wearing a beard a lot during the Lindgren days... or was that just the other guys on the 3rd floor? Anyway, my husband is not fond of shaving either. Right now he has a mustache and goatee. Maybe you could try that!

Anonymous said...

NASA probably requires a clean shaved face for EVA, and in case of emergency to use portable breathing aparatus which is just like when you go diving and have to have a good seal on your face - hair prevents that. So when you make it up there, probably you will need to shave.

Jeff said...

I think as a geo-scientist it's a requirement to have a beard, or some form of wild facial hair. I have also come to believe that as a any type of scientist, your level of genius is proportional to the lenght and unrulyness of your beard! See this brilliant guy for example: http://www.ams.org/mathmedia/images/md-200608-perelman.jpg

Thankfully, this isn't a requirement for women scientists!

brian said...

Well, the beard is gone as of yesterday. I must admit, it did feel good to have a smooth face again (if only for a few hours).

KurtMac: Thanks for pointing out the Skylab astronaut beards! Another blog reader Jerry sent me some more photos of Commander Gerard Carr on Facebook: http://tinyurl.com/lrabv9 and http://tinyurl.com/n9x58w

Ethan: You should try the Lincoln beard with a shaved head and a kilt. That would be a statement :)

Alina: I would regularly go a week or more between shaves in college, so you usually saw me with some stubble. You could also be remembering me soon after I returned from one of my Alaska trips or my field camp to Colorado and Utah.

Anonymous: Your logic for having a smooth faced in the case of needing the portable breathing apparatus makes sense. Thanks for pointing it out.

Jeff: You're absolutely right that most geoscientists, and many intellectuals in general, sport beards. I haven't seen too many women with them, though!

PS: Here is another blog post about shaving and astronauts: http://blogs.airspacemag.com/daily-planet/2009/07/24/to-shave-or-not-to-shave/

space-monkey said...

I like the Day 3 look.

brian said...

Good, because that's my normal shaving interval: every 3 days.

Durable Goods said...

yeah, the three-day look is DILF-worthy.

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