tech2 News StaffDec 26, 2018 10:43:07 IST
Being weightless in zero gravity sounds and looks like good fun.
However, six months of low gravity of the space station can take its toll on anyone.
Most recently, NASA astronauts AJ (Drew) Feustel and Ricky Arnold, and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev landed on Earth after spending 197 days in the International Space Station. The crew returned safely after working to keep the orbiting laboratory fully operational, carrying out three spacewalks (one of which was to investigate an air leak in the ISS) and conducting hundreds of research experiments in low gravity.
But their return to Earth – particularly for Feustal – came with some unpleasant side effects.
His wife captured a video of his recovery, which he shared on Twitter.
Welcome home #SoyuzMS09 ! On October 5th this is what I looked like walking heel-toe eyes closed after 197 days on @Space_Station during the Field Test experiment...I hope the newly returned crew feels a lot better. Video credit @IndiraFeustel pic.twitter.com/KsFuJgoYXh
— A.J. (Drew) Feustel (@Astro_Feustel) December 20, 2018
The video is making waves on the internet, leaving Earthlings everywhere baffled at how difficult it can be to do something as "simple" as walking on Earth – something Drew, too, has done all his life – without breaking a sweat.
Getting ready for spacewalks: The Field Test
There are quite a few changes that astronauts who spend between six to twelve months in space experience after they return. Unexpected changes to their vision, sense of balance and coordination, blood pressure, and the ability to walk are something astronauts are trained to cope with. Even so, the impact it can have on their ability to perform basic tasks can be affected once they return regardless of it, Drew's experience being a case in point.
The first priorities for astronauts as soon as they return is medical assistance, health checks and rehabilitation. With space agencies world over setting targets for future manned missions to the moon and Mars, these changes are critical to monitor and understand to make recovery easier for current and future astronauts.
Enter the "Field Test" – a range of studies designed by NASA and Roscosmos to study the complexity, severity and duration of changes in spacefaring astronauts with the aim of improving the recovery time and preventing injury in future missions.
One such component in the Field Test is warming up for spacewalks in the "Neutral Buoyancy Lab" – a giant pool with roughly 2,34,70,000 litres of water to simulate the feeling of floating in space.
While the average spacewalk is somewhere between 5 to 8 eight hours in real time, astronauts train in the Buoyancy Lab seven hours for each hour spent on a spacewalk. That's between 35 and 56 hours of pool-time preparation!
Another practise aide to spacewalks is virtual reality. Using virtual reality visuals of what they might see during a spacewalk is shown to astronauts inside their headgear as they move. Special gloves with sensors allow their movements to be captured with the video, giving them a VR simulation of what it will look and feel like to do a real spacewalk.
Feustal was a pro astronaut who has logged a total of 226 days in space over three expeditions. He has also accumulated 61 hours and 48 minutes in nine spacewalks over his career as an astronaut, ranking second overall among all of NASA's astronauts.
Clearly, gravity is something that can mess with even the best of us.