Thomas Pesquet will return to Earth on November 9, after six months spent aboard the International Space Station (ISS). But the 43-year-old astronaut was not on vacation: he participated in a hundred scientific experiments provided by the partners of the International Space Station.
Biology, physics, medicine … the topics are diverse. All tests are aimed at the development of scientific research, and are grouped under the name Mission Alpha. Here are a few.
sleep confinement dreams
Six months at an altitude of 400 kilometers, stuck with the same people in the same place. An astronaut’s life is tough and can have an impact on sleep. These were studied as part of the “dreams” experiment: Thomas Pesquet and his colleagues put a small bandage with sensors on their eyes to analyze their brain activity while they slept.
This data is essential to prepare for upcoming space missions. The trip to Mars takes about a year, so it’s essential for astronauts to “sleep well” so they don’t suffer so much from isolation and confinement.
Telemachus, the acoustic clutch
Thomas Pesquet experimented with a rather special machine: the “acoustic clutch”, called the Télémaque. Developed by the National Center for Space Studies (CNES), this object aims to manipulate very small objects without touching them, thanks only to ultrasound.
Experiences Made in France #8: Télémaque
This sonic clutch allows you to handle things without contact
– CNES (CNES) June 2, 2021
Télémaque is designed to transport dangerous products, or to perform medical operations. It can help, for example, in eliminating kidney stones.
Dot, amazing creature
Many points accompanied the astronauts on their journey. These organisms never cease to amaze scientists: they produce pigments like plants, move and feed like animals, and reproduce by spores like fungi. Thomas Pesquet and his colleagues “planted” them in space to better understand their behaviour.
At the same time, 2,000 elementary, middle, and high school classes also raised their point for comparing their results with those of an astronaut. The goal is to determine if weightlessness had an effect on the evolution of this mysterious creature.
Grip and grasp, coordination under study
These experiments, which are closely related to the topic, are concerned with the astronauts’ brain activity. They are studying how to take weightlessness into account when they have to hold or move something.
It’s like a torture chair, but it’s for science’s sake! Experience @This is amazing/Tweet embed GRASP studies how hand-eye coordination adapts to weightlessness. The most adherent will have discovered our authenticity #space invader. #street art #MissionAlpha pic.twitter.com/uXq6vRdPCe
– Thomas Bisquet (@Thom_astro) May 14, 2021
The results should allow the development of the astronaut’s “home”, but also to better understand the vestibular system, which allows humans to find their way in space. The experience could advance the search for treatments for movement problems.
Fluids, fluids in zero gravity
This experiment is closely followed by oceanographers. Fluidic studies the behavior of fluids in zero gravity, allowing us to better understand the workings of the oceans.
Another goal: to analyze the motion of fluids in a cabin in zero gravity, “in order to design satellites capable of using fuel more efficiently, and thus extending their lifespan,” details the European Space Agency (ESA).
Thomas Pesquet and his three companions will leave the International Space Station at 8:05 p.m. on November 8, for a scheduled return to Earth at 4:33 a.m. They will pass the wand to four astronauts who will make the trip in the opposite direction. Thus, the Frenchman completed his second mission in space.
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