Astronauts Frank Rubio from NASA, and Dmitry Petelin and Sergey Prokopyev from Russia, have been living and working aboard the International Space Station (ISS) for a year since September 2022. Due to an unexpected event, their return was delayed by 180 days. As they prepare to return to Earth on September 27, the astronauts have tried out a lower-body pressure suit known as the Chibis suit to help them readjust to gravity more quickly.
Extended periods in microgravity cause body fluids to pool in the upper body, making it difficult for astronauts to walk normally when they return to Earth. The Chibis suit applies lower body negative pressure, preventing fluid from pooling in the upper body and aiding in the reacclimatization process. This suit has been used by Russian cosmonauts since the 1970s and 1980s and is now regularly used in missions to help prepare astronauts for their return to Earth.
In addition to the Chibis suit, astronauts are required to exercise for at least two hours daily on the ISS to ensure proper blood flow and maintain muscle mass. Extended space travel can have long-term health effects, including impaired eyesight and loss of bone density. Astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent 520 days on the ISS, experienced changes in his vision and a shrinkage of his heart by 25%.
Upon their return, the astronauts will undergo an extensive rehabilitation program to readjust to Earth’s gravity. Frank Rubio will set a new US record for the longest space flight, completing 371 consecutive days in space. Russian cosmonaut Valery Polyakov holds the world record for the longest single stay in space, spending 437 days on the Mir space station.
Sources: NASA, Nasa Spaceflight, The National
– International Space Station (ISS): A modular space station in low Earth orbit that serves as a multinational collaborative project between NASA, Roscosmos, ESA, JAXA, and CSA.
– Chibis suit: A lower-body pressure suit used by Russian cosmonauts to prevent fluid pooling in the upper body and aid in re-adaptation to gravity.
– Microgravity: The condition experienced in space where the force of gravity is greatly reduced, resulting in a weightless environment.
– NASA: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the United States’ civilian space agency.
– Roscosmos: The Russian space agency responsible for space activities in the country.
– Mir: A space station operated by the Soviet Union and later by Russia from 1986 to 2001.
– The National: A United Arab Emirates news publication.