This Monday saw Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jaques return home after an extended mission on the ISS. We take a look at his equally grand task of readjusting his body to the conditions on Earth. The astronaut’s mission has put him in space for a period of 204 days, which has set the record for the most prolonged single stay in space. We have helpful comments from the astronaut that had formerly held this record. Robert Thirsk, also from Canada, says that his time in space was genuinely incredible and returning to Earth was the “icing on the cake.”
He further comments on the landing: “It’s a moment, it’s a few hours that they will remember forever. I say that because of the dynamism. It’s a crazy, wild ride home. That was the climax of the ride home for me, this bouncing, bungee-like pendulum motion underneath the shrouds of the parachute was really wild and disturbing. Every single organ system in my body was affected by the weightlessness, which meant that each organ system had to re-adapt again to Earth.”
The heavy physical impact of returning to Earth from space
If you have ever watched the moment when the doors are opened on a capsule, you probably saw something curious. Anytime astronauts exit their craft, they do not do it on their own feet. Instead, they are carried off or helped to walk by a few individuals. This is done because they do not have much strength in their bodies after the 0 gravity conditions in space. These conditions have altered their muscle tissue to the point where it is difficult for them to adjust to Earth’s gravity.
Thirsk commented that he was light-headed for a few days after arrival. He also has poor vision, and his heart was not used to pumping as much blood as before.
These symptoms soon faded, but the astronaut still did not have a comfortable time on Earth. It took him around two months to fully adjust to his environment and consider life on the planet to be normal.
Recovery after coming home from space
After returning to the surface, astronauts have daily medical checks performed on them. These checks observe their general health, as well as their adjustment to the new conditions. NASA has stated that astronauts are also monitored for changes in their mental health. The time they spend in space along with re-entry can sometimes mess with their heads.
Being isolated in a small space with just a few people around you can lead to feelings of confinement and depression. The recovery process is different for each astronaut, both in the physical and the mental. Luckily for the newly returned Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jaques, it appears that he has adjusted well and even enjoyed this time in space.