In more than 20 experiments flown over the last 15 years, a team of scientists has charted how humans cope with grasping objects in space. Astronauts often perform delicate manoeuvres on small objects, and calculating how living in weightlessness influences their grasp and fine motor controls is important in an environment that allows little room for error.
The work on parabolic flights has paved the way for an experiment that ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti will run on the Space Station later this year. She will grip a purpose-built sensor with her eyes open and then closed to assess how the body adapts to situations where there is no up or down.
These experiments are also helpful to engineers designing prosthetic limbs on Earth.