Back on Earth
When ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst lands back on Earth, his mission is far from over. Many scientists will be eager to get more data on how his body and mind have reacted to his six months in space. But first Alexander will need to adapt to living on Earth again.
Many astronauts note the striking smells and colours upon returning to our planet. After six months of living without a shower in recycled air and drinking recycled water, the simple pleasures and senses in life are most welcome.
Returning in a weakened state from living without gravity, astronauts can need a few days to relearn how to stand up and walk after their bodies have become accustomed to floating around effortlessly. Standing up and balancing can be problematic as gravity affects how the fluids in our bodies behave.
Alexander will be the first astronaut to return straight home after a spaceflight for rehabilitation. From their landing site, NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman will return to Houston, USA, cosmonaut commander Maxim Suraev will fly to Star City, near Moscow, Russia, while Alexander will be welcomed at ESA’s astronaut centre in Cologne, Germany.
Using state-of-the-art equipment at the German Aerospace Center’s Envihab facility, technicians will monitor Alexander’s health and get him to stand on his own two feet as soon as possible.
Some experiments demand immediate access to Alexander before his body changes under the influence of gravity. Scientists will draw blood, conduct MRI scans and ask questions in the name of science.
Another group of people interested in Alexander are the mission controllers and operational support people. A thorough debriefing is held with multiple teams to understand how things went, what could be improved and how to do things better on the next mission.
Lastly, when Alexander has finished his rehabilitation, scientific protocol and debriefings, a tour awaits to explain first-hand how it is like to be in space.
Last update: 8 May 2014