André’s blog: from doctor to guinea pig

Having a lunch in Space Station mockup
15 December 2011

ESA astronaut André Kuipers has spent many months preparing for his next mission – travelling, training, stuck in quarantine and a guinea pig for medical experiments. For the last six months, André has been writing a blog in his native Dutch, but now entries are also available in English.

To summarise the blog in one word: training.

Everything that André will do on his PromISSe mission to the International Space Station – scheduled for launch on 21 December – is planned in minute detail. All the possible situations have to be thought of and emergencies practised endlessly with the other astronauts.

Now André is providing an insider’s view of his world through his blog texts in English.

As a medical doctor, André started his career at ESA running medical experiments on pilots and astronauts. During the PromISSe mission, however, he will be the one facing some experiments.

He has been extensively measured and probed over the last few months to build a reference for studying his changes in the weightless conditions in space.

André’s reaction times have been recorded, his blood pressure monitored over 24 hours and his muscle strength measured by applying electrical shocks to his calf muscles.

He even had a small piece of muscle surgically removed for analysis.

Most of these tests will be done again in space, and then repeated once back on Earth – something to look forward to after his long stay on the Space Station.

On the plane to Baikonur

During his five-month mission, ESA’s third Automated Transfer Vehicle, ATV Edoardo Amaldi, will deliver supplies to André and his crewmates. Russian and American spacecraft will also arrive and depart.

Unpacking and stowing cargo needs to be handled meticulously, otherwise they could lose track of essential supplies. Four whole days are booked for ATV unloading – and this requires weeks of training on Earth.

In between all the travelling, training and medical experiments, André had to find time to keep his Russian language skills up to date – a requirement for working on the Station and acting as a flight engineer on the Soyuz spacecraft.

You might think that the launch delay from November would allow André some more time to visit his family and relax, but the extra time is being used for refresher training in the various space centres.

André's blog in English: blogs.esa.int/andre-kuipers

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