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From their bathtubs, they prepare the future flights of women astronauts

Tania, a 24 year old young woman, grew 3 cm in five days. This graduate of the School of Aeronautical and Space Engineers did not take a miracle pill of growth but underwent accelerated weightlessness effects, without making a round trip to the International Space Station. She actually spent five days lying in a bathtub for the
science needs.

Tania is one of 18 volunteers aged 20 to 40 to have participated in the new weightlessness simulation study conducted by the space clinic, the MEDES, at Toulouse University Hospital, on behalf of the European Space Agency. Started in September, it will continue until December 10, when the last two women will return to their lives after an unprecedented experience in Europe.

If men had already made their bodies available to better understand the effects of weightlessness and their consequences on the health of astronauts, this is the first time that women have been immersed in bathtubs, isolated from the water, without support, but in a situation comparable to that of real microgravity.

Not a lot of data on women

After a series of tests carried out over four days, they spend five days in the same position, before being examined again for two days. “We don’t have a lot of data on the effects on women as the crews are becoming more feminine and the United States has announced that for the next trip to the Moon there will be as many men as women,” explains Doctor Marie-Pierre Bareille, responsible for this program within the space clinic.

Thanks to previous campaigns carried out on men, we knew that this express and intense dive into the skin of an astronaut had significant consequences on the physiology of the volunteer, in particular a decrease in the volume of blood in the blood circulation or even cardiac deconditioning. with “marked effects”. This should allow us to learn a little more about orthostatic hypotension, this decrease in blood pressure, to which female astronauts are more prone than men. As was the case with Stefany Shyn-Piper who had twice passed out in front of the cameras upon returning to Earth.

“It taught me a lot of things from a medical point of view”

In space the bodily fluids are concentrated towards the upper part of the body and when returning to the floor of the cows, the blood flows back to the legs, the less irrigated brain then makes its own. “We have a spinning head and a physical sensation in the feet, tingling sensations and a little weak legs. But it comes back quickly. The only thing missing after two days is at the cardio level, when I go up the stairs I’m a little out of breath, ”Tania testified, Sunday, the day after she got out of the bathtub.

If she is not going to come out physically grown from her experience in the sense, once standing she quickly lost her 3 cm gained, she was undeniably enriched. “I belong to the Space Generation Advisory Council association, which brings together young people working in space, and one of whose objectives is to address diversity and gender equality in space. By participating, it was a way to contribute because we realize the need to have more data on women. And then it’s a personal challenge, it taught me a lot of things on the medical level, I was not bored but it was far from being a vacation, ”smiles the young woman who is starting her career this week. professional in systems engineering at Aliena Space in Turin.

A Bedrest in 2023

In a few months she will have the results of the study in which she participated. And will know the effects of this immersion on the heart, muscle or even on his eyesight, intracranial pressure perhaps playing a role on the thickness of the optic sheath, while bringing its stone to knowledge on the consequences of a sedentary lifestyle. human beings in general.

“Our objective is to be able to counter these effects by setting up countermeasures that we can test during a next long Bedrest, and see if it is effective,” explains Marie-Pierre Bareille. One of these next studies, which involves leaving volunteers lying down for sixty days on a bed tilted at 6 ° with their heads down, should take place in 2023 and will include as many men as women. It should make it possible to test the artificial gravity associated with physical exercise, a means of countering the harmful effects of weightlessness.

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