Why don't astronauts get older in space
"Astronauts don't know any age"
Paolo Nespoli is the veteran among European astronauts. At the age of 60 he returned to the ISS for the third time. Euronews has accompanied the various phases of its training
The third space mission of ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli, which is planned for the end of July, falls in a very symbolic year. Nespoli turned 60 in April and 60 years ago on October 4th, the Sputnik was the first satellite to be launched into orbit. This marked the official start of the conquest of space with Yuri Gagarin, who was the first person to fly into space, and the US Apollo program.
"I grew up conquering the moon and saw rockets being shot to the moon. I also read comics like" The Jetsons, "a family who lived in space and used a kind of" jet scooter "to get around," says Nespoli .
To move in weightlessness has to be learned over and over again. Even after months of training, the astronauts need a period of physical and mental adjustment once they arrive on the ISS. The Italian astronaut says: "If it's a long-term mission like my second and the coming one, you have to become part of the station. You have to feel comfortable on board, learn to become a kind of superman, that is, you have to literally fly. All of that takes time, you need about four to six weeks, then you don't have to think about how to get from here to back there without hitting everywhere, "says the astronaut.
In 2007 he worked for two weeks on the construction of the ISS, and in 2011 he spent six months on board. How is the Italian astronaut's third mission different from the previous ones?
"This time I'll try to enjoy the different sensations of being in space more instead of focusing on getting the best possible results," says Nespoli.
The next crew on the ISS will have a very busy schedule, as they have to carry out around 200 scientific experiments: "The joy of discovery is one of the things that makes you happy and euphoric, and maybe that is what adults lose compared to children. So maybe you come back from space younger, who knows ... "says Nespoli.
Astronauts are physically trained and kept in shape with annual checkups. But of course the individual requirements also play an important role: "The nice thing about people is that the physiology is relative, age is relative, sometimes a 60-year-old who is young at heart can be better than a 30-year-old who has aged early," says ESA. Doctor Filippo Castrucci.
Usually humans are used to gravity. In order to maintain the health of astronauts during long-term missions, one has to know how and which functions change in the body: "With this experiment we are trying to understand how the brain and the central nervous system work. We are investigating whether precision is achieved in weightlessness movement is as good as it is on earth, "says ESA trainer Laura Andre-Boyet.
A challenge for manned space travel: life in weightlessness
The apparatus is being tested in space for the first time by Paolo Nespoli in order to understand how the brain adapts to weightlessness.
"Paolo will use the machine and carry out all mechanical activities to install it in the Columbus space laboratory. This is a big task, because he has to check whether the settings made on earth were correct and whether the machine can be used correctly", continues the trainer.
The future of space research depends heavily on the answers science, research and technology can provide to the known effects of weightlessness on the body, such as changes in the cardiovascular system, and lack of fluids and calcium.
"The ISS is our mainstay in space, but it is also used to establish a plan and the knowledge to go further. (Short pause) Bone demineralization, muscle breakdown, all of these could be avoided if you were the crew members provides partial or even full gravity. To prepare for long-term missions, we have to adapt vehicles to people and not people to the restrictions of vehicles, "says ESA doctor Filippo Castrucci.
After the end of the Apollo program, no one has flown further than into orbit of the earth. In the future, ESA plans to install an inhabited outpost on the moon, while NASA is focusing on the long-term plan to bring astronauts to Mars.
Nespoli says: "Perhaps Yuri Gagarin would have imagined that around 60 years after his first space flight we would have come much further, that we might fly as far as Mars or out of our solar system, but we are not that far yet. Mankind is looking for this Expansion, we continue on this path of knowledge and it is very important to do that. It is a pleasure and an honor for me to be part of it, "says Paolo Nespoli.
The last phase has started. A symbolic detail of the mission of Nespoli and his Russian (Sergey Ryazansky) and American (Randy Bresnik) teammates: They take off from the same spaceport as Gagarin on the first manned space flight.
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