Scientists have created a "second skin" for astronauts, effectively imitating gravity

Long exposure to microgravity leads immediately to a whole series of health problems for astronauts and cosmonauts. Among these problems, for example, loss of bone density and muscle atrophy. But there is one more peculiarity: a person in weightlessness becomes higher, since a lower gravitational effect causes his spine to stretch. Of course, many of us would like to be higher, but in space this can be a real problem, because this stretch can cause pain.

At the Royal College of London, the new version of the special SkinSuit suit, designed to solve this problem, was completed. The results of recent tests have not yet been published in the public domain, but scientists say very positive results.

The life and work of an astronaut in microgravity conditions aboard the International Space Station 24 hours a day and 7 days a week is fundamentally different from the usual 24-hour cycle of each person on Earth. In the conditions of terrestrial gravity, our back rests when we sleep. Sleep in the supine position allows the space between intervertebral discs to be filled with synovial fluid. It allows our bones and joints to rest from the stress that they experienced during the day, and also clears the body of excess substances and accelerates the metabolism of cells. Every time we wake up, we become slightly higher, but only for a while. During the day, the force of gravity causes our intervertebral disks to close again, we lose an average of 1.5 centimeters of growth and become the same as before. Within the next cycle of sleep, our back stretches again, and so it repeats from time to time. As for the cosmos, there are cases when the spine of a person was stretched to 7 centimeters.

"On Earth, when you stand on your feet, you are pressured not only by your own weight, but also by the force of gravity. Then, when you go to bed, your back is stretched – this is a normal cyclic process, "explains the head of the study David Green.

In microgravity, the astronaut's back never contracts under the influence of gravity and is always in a relaxed, stretched state. As a result, frequent pains in the back area are observed.

"In space, there is no gravitational load, so the space between the intervertebral discs is constantly increasing, the natural curvature of the spine is reduced, and the backbone ligaments and muscles that no longer need to resist gravity begin to atrophy and weaken," continues Green.

The SkinSuit suit, which has been developed for several years by the European Space Agency's Space Medicine Center and the Royal College of London, is based on the findings of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). As the main material, he uses spandex, which acts as an imitator of gravity and exerts pressure on the entire body, from the shoulders and to the feet.

Astronauts of the European Space Agency conducted tests of the SkinSuit suit in the framework of parabolic flights on an airplane (where weightlessness is simulated), as well as aboard the ISS. Photo CNES / Novespace, 2014

The costness of the suit onboard the ISS was checked by the Danish astronaut Andreas Mogensen, as well as the French astronaut Tom Peske. However, the first version of the costume astronauts carried very short. He was very uncomfortable and shackling.

"The first concepts were really very inconvenient. They provided about 80 percent of the gravitational load, but they could only be worn for a couple of hours, "says researcher Philippe Carville.

It was decided to finish the suit. In addition, the researchers created a special "water bed", half filled with water with a rich content of magnesium salts. It was used as a kind of environment for simulating the effects of microgravity on the body, which astronauts experience in space. Scientists have peeped this method at the Dead Sea, where a high concentration of salts allows a person to literally lie on the surface of the water.

"During our longer trials, we observed an increase in human growth similar to that characteristic of the space environment. In other words, we were able to achieve the effect of microgravity, at least in terms of its effect on the human spine, "explains researcher Philippe Carville.

The SkinSuit suit has gone through several stages of improvement to become not only more comfortable, but also effective

Involvement of college students as testers of new versions of the costume helped to improve its effectiveness. At first volunteers were asked to lie on a "waterbed", imitating the microgravity environment. First without a suit, then dressed in SkinSuit. After that, the scientists conducted an MRI scan and checked the effectiveness. As a result, the suit went through several stages of modernization, which made it more comfortable, wearable and efficient. At the moment, the latest version of SkinSuit is the Mark VI design.

"The SkinSuit Mark VI version turned out to be very convenient. So convenient that it actually does not feel on the body, even with prolonged wearing, physical activity or during sleep, "says Carvill.

"The latest version provides about 20 percent of the gravitational load, which is slightly higher than the lunar gravity. In turn, this is enough to make the back feel the necessary effects of gravity and always was in a tone. "

"The results of our tests have not yet been published, but it seems that the version of the SkinSuit Mk VI suit is very effective in compensating for the spinal traction effect. In addition to this, we learned a lot about the fundamental physiological processes and the importance of distributing the load on the spine, "added Philip.

0 Comments on “Scientists have created a "second skin" for astronauts, effectively imitating gravity”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *