And that question has now been answered by someone who would know: retired U.S. astronaut Terry Virts, who has served as commander of the International Space Station and pilot of the space shuttle Endeavour during his two trips into space.
The bad news?
Well ― they aren’t. Sorry.
The conversation started, innocently enough, with a tweet by astrophysicist Katie Mack on the plot device of magnetic boots for use in zero-gravity situations:
Magnetic boots make a lot of sense for zero-G scenes on TV-show spaceships but you know if it were real there’d always be some weirdo floating around upside down to annoy everyone
— Katie Mack (@AstroKatie) May 20, 2019
That led one Twitter user to ask about another way of floating around in space:
Can flatulence provide propulsion in zero-G & will future etiquette evolve to destigmatise this?
— Jamie (@labourforyou) May 20, 2019
Within minutes, Virts ― who is also known for his stunning photos from space ― provided an answer:
No it can’t
— Terry Virts (@AstroTerry) May 20, 2019
The issue has come up for air before. In a 2017 interview with Gizmodo, shuttle astronaut Mike Massimino was asked about the possibility of being propelled by space farts and sneezes.
″[I]f you’re really still and gave a good sneeze, that would give you a little kick, yes,” he said. But being propelled by farts is “easier said than done.”
He added that the bigger issue with farts was not propulsion but the poor airflow in a spacecraft, which causes the smell to “kind of hang out.”
But at least it’s better than Uranus. Jokes about the name aside, a study last year found the atmosphere was filled with hydrogen sulfide, the same compound that gives farts and rotten eggs that distinct odor.