Medical tests, rehabilitation: the busy program of Thomas Pesquet

Living six months in space, without gravity, is not trivial for the human body. Also, if Thomas Pesquet does indeed make his comeback on earth Tuesday, November 9, the French astronaut and the three other members of the Crew-2 crew will have to undergo a whole series of medical and sports tests before hoping. regain a normal life on the cow floor. A program that promises to be intensive.

Crew-2’s four astronauts will return to Earth aboard the Dragon capsule, chartered by Space X. Once back into the atmosphere, the capsule will descend very quickly towards the sea, and should land off the coast of the sea. Florida around 4:30 a.m., French time, Monday to Tuesday night. This landing is a first for Thomas Pesquet, who in 2017 landed in the Kazakh steppes with the Russian Soyuz.

“We’re going to descend 8 or 9 meters per second, it’s quite fast and much stronger than a plane landing in water,” the astronaut told France Inter. Once the capsule has “hit” the surface of the sea (“splashdown” in English), it will float, and the crew will be recovered as quickly as possible by ships positioned nearby. The finish is likely to rock a bit: “We already get a bit seasick when we get back to Earth, so it could be even worse there,” anticipates Thomas Pesquet.

Stop in Houston and fly to Europe

A helicopter will bring the “Crew-2” back to dry land, from where they will board a plane for the NASA Space Center in Houston, Texas. Thomas Pesquet, 43, will undergo rapid medical tests there. “We are going to monitor his blood pressure, which may be low because, in zero gravity, the blood has circulated in a different direction,” explains Dr. Golemis. He will also undergo neurological examinations: his body having floated for six months, his balance system will have to get used to gravity again and learn to stand again. “Like a little child learning to ride a bike,” says Franck De Winne, chief astronaut for the European Space Agency (ESA).

It is therefore necessary to support the astronauts on their return to prevent any fall, especially as they have lost bone density, increasing the risk of fractures. Also on the menu: tests to detect infections, especially Covid-19. Even though the astronauts have been vaccinated before their departure, their immune systems will be weakened after their stay in space, and will take two weeks to recover.

Once this “check-up” (about two hours) is completed, the Frenchman will say goodbye to his Japanese and American teammates, who will remain in Houston. He will fly to Cologne, Germany, where the European Astronaut Center is located.

Fitness and vacation

Three weeks of intense physical rehabilitation await him. “The priority is to make sure that he gets back to work and stays in good health,” said Belgian astronaut Franck De Winne, who heads the center. Thomas Pesquet will gradually rework the muscles supporting the spine, inactivated for six months.

He will gradually regain his skills. “After a few hours, or a day at most, you can walk on your own. And a few days later, to run, “recalls the Belgian astronaut who spent six months in the ISS. “It’s amazing how fast they recover! And it has been observed that when an astronaut flies for the second time, it is a little easier than the first, “comments Dr. Golemis.

The astronaut will be subjected to the same tests as before and during his mission, to help collect scientific data on the effect of micro-gravity on the human body.

“It’s the whole body that we study” after this extraordinary upheaval, summarizes Dr. Golemis. Certain pathologies observed only in space, where the blood circulates “as if in the opposite direction”, are of particular interest. As this syndrome says “WITHOUT”, a loss of visual acuity affecting some astronauts. “It helps us understand the eye better. ”

Although restrictive, the program will not prevent the astronaut from seeing his loved ones. “And then hopefully, first week of vacation in many months,” he said on Friday. “I even feel like it’s been years.”

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