The “world’s worst hangover” is what Tim Peake, the first British astronaut who has been aboard the International Space Station (ISS), is suffering after spending six months in orbit during his Principia mission. He is experiencing vertigo and dizziness as he readapts to Earth and begins three weeks of rehabilitation at the Germany-based European Astronaut Centre, located in Cologne.
Not only was Peake the first Briton to live on the International Space Station, but he also marked the fastest marathon ever to be run in space with his finish time of 3 hours, 35 minutes, and 21 seconds, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
The former Army aviator and helicopter test pilot said he faced the temptation to have a pizza and a cold beer as part of his celebration when he returned to his home planet on Saturday.
Angela and Nigel, Peake’s parents, greeted their son on Sunday when he arrived in Cologne.
“It’s a job well done, I’m so proud of him and what he’s achieved,” Nigel said, as reported by The Guardian.
The British astronaut was the second crew member to be lifted out of the capsule, which parachuted down to a spot on the Kazakhstan steppe. A gust of wind rolled the capsule to its side after landing and a burst of fire coming from six retro rockets reduce to 3mph the impact speed just a second before touchdown.
“I’m just truly elated. The smells of the Earth are so strong. It’s just wonderful to feel the fresh air. I’m looking forward to seeing the family now,” expressed Peake after 186 days out of his home planet, as quoted by Tech Times.
Peake said the journey had been “incredible – the best ride I’ve been on ever,” according to The Guardian. His crewmates were American Nasa astronaut Colonel Tim Kopra and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, who returned to Earth in a tiny Soyuz descent module.
The three international crew members were part of research and experiments aimed at studying the microgravity’s effects on the human body and testing robotic activities. They also worked in the development of smaller exercise machines and tested how efficient the use of nitric oxide gas was as a tool to monitor lung inflammation.
— ESA (@esa) June 20, 2016
The whole point is to understand how humans can survive long-term space missions and find new ways to make life easier for them far away from Earth. But the ISS astronauts’ contribution on this matter will not end until they have undergone several tests to see how their bodies managed to adapt to the environment in space.
Extensive medical tests
The 44-year-old will be questioned by doctors and undergo a series of medical tests and follow a strict exercise regime so experts can study the physical and psychological effects of space travel. His sense of balance is most certainly greatly affected because he is coming from an environment where there are no such things like “up” or “down” due to the lack of gravity.
“The first time I saw the Earth was just a few moments after insertion into orbit,” he told CNN in May from the International Space Station. “It was just the most incredible feeling to be in orbit and see the planet for the first time. It was spectacular.”
One of the effects the six-month travel has had in Peake’s body is that it has shrunk the size of his heart. During the rehabilitation, doctors will draw blood and conduct Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans. They will monitor the astronaut’s heart and blood circulation’s response to gravity by examining him on a tilt table that rotates his body from a horizontal to a vertical position.
A drop in blood pressure can cause sensations of faintness, which is as common as the dizziness and nausea astronauts experience when returning from space. This happens because the vestibular system from the inner ear responsible for keeping humans on their feet are over-stimulated on Earthly ground, which means that Peake will have to get used to that again.
As for Peake’s bones and muscles, he will spend a few days learning how to walk again because he is weakened by months living in orbit. He first tried to walk in Earth’s gravity with the help of two staffers shortly after he landed on Saturday. The European Space Agency says that for each month spent in space, humans lose up to 1.5 percent of their bone mass, with the greater loss being in the pelvis and upper thighs. Such bone deterioration increases the risk of hip fractures and other injuries.
— Tim Peake (@astro_timpeake) June 18, 2016
Full recovery can take as long as three years as the gravity’s influence helps the bone regrow over time, but it also depends on the individual’s exercise discipline. Even though muscles get stronger quickly, the weakness can last for some time. Astronauts have even strained their necks after turning their heads in a brusque, sudden way.
And without the protection of Earth’s magnetic field, Peake might be at a 3 percent higher risk of cancer after being exposed to radiation doses equivalent to 1,200 chest x-rays.
Source: The Guardian