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Source: Russia Federal Space

# Roskosmos # Russian space # IBMP RAN

When it comes to a manned flight to the moon, not a single detail can be overlooked. Two weeks in the confined space of a spacecraft can seem like an eternity if you don’t prepare in advance for possible difficulties. An isolation experiment was carried out at the Institute of Biomedical Problems (IBMP) of the Russian Academy of Sciences, which in many respects simulates the flight to the moon. At the end of April, in one of the IBMP buildings, where the ground experimental complex is located, it was very lively. Colleagues happily greeted the comrades “who returned from the moon” with applause and flowers, and they unexpectedly cheerfully answered questions and smiled. As if there hadn’t been two weeks spent without getting out on a tiny patch of land. In fact, four men and two women (this gender proportion was applied for the first time) had to live and work on an area of ​​10m2, which is difficult to imagine even for the inhabitants of Soviet communal apartments.

Closer to space The youngest crew members who dared to embark on a daring experiment are 25 years old. These are post-graduate students, junior researchers of the Institute of International Biological Problems German Primachenko and Daria Pashkova. Their senior and most experienced colleague is Oleg Voloshin, head of the IBMP press service, who has been working at the institute since 2000. He is 45 years old. Behind him – three isolation experiments, two immersion, two antiorthostatic hypokinesia, an experiment with a short-radius centrifuge, in parabolic flight with weightlessness and many others. It is not surprising that he was appointed the crew commander. Despite the difference in age, the crew members managed to rally even before they entered the “barrel” – at the stage of background “pre-flight” surveys. They were united by the desire to get closer to space and to contribute to the development of future missions to distant planets. The SKETCH experiment largely imitated a real space flight on a new manned spacecraft. And in some ways it was even tougher. The single beds, on which the crew members rested at night, turned into workplaces in the morning. Find out how this can be done on the International Space Station, there is simply nowhere to go. Wake up every morning at 7:00. Then medical control, morning techniques, hygiene procedures, breakfast – and a day full of various tests and studies. The crew tried to strictly adhere to the cyclogram, but sometimes they allowed themselves to “deviate from the script”: for example, to have lunch together or watch a collective movie “after lights out. “. It may well be that just such simple team-building techniques helped them calmly stay in the closed module for two weeks.

Standards of consumption Coming out of the “barrel”, the participants of the experiment noted that first of all they really want to take a shower. “Our hygienists took the norms for the ship” Eagle “in terms of the volume of used wet towels. We had similar waffle towels and the same amount of liquid that is usually poured there. In this way, we simulated the sanitary and hygienic process that will take place on the ship. The use of wet towels was standardized and occurred at specific times. We also had dry shampoos, but they didn’t help much, considering my hair, ”Oleg Voloshin admitted with a smile. The crew was also limited in sets of clothes. Over the past 14 days, women have changed their outfit twice, and men in general only once. “We want to try to increase the life of one change of uniform (there is no laundry on board. – Ed.), As this will help reduce the weight of the ship. To do this, we are trying to find the best option, when there are no irritations on the skin from long wearing of linen, in order to comply with all microbiological safety standards, “said the executive in charge of experimental research, Candidate of Medical Sciences Sergei Ponomarev. Food rations were developed taking into account energy consumption. Freeze-dried food was used – an analogue of real space food, to which water is added to prepare the final dish. Its volume was not limited, but consumption was recorded.

The improvised spacecraft also had its own first aid kit – a possible prototype of a medical stowage for a promising transport ship. noted the doctor in charge of the experiment, an employee of the IBMP Arslan Niyazov. – The medical package has been supplemented with antibiotics, the number of drugs for stopping space motion sickness has been increased, the range of anti-inflammatory drugs, drugs for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases, drugs for the provision of emergency and urgent care, as well as drugs for the treatment of various skin manifestations, minor abrasions has been expanded. Many of the added drugs are on the ISS, but they are not in the Soyuz first-aid kit, since the duration of its autonomous flight now does not exceed two days. The number of drugs already included in the medical stowage has been increased, because the number of the crew and the duration of the autonomous flight will increase. ”During the experiment, the doctors looked at what health problems the subjects might have in conditions close to the real flight, whether there were enough drugs. Only weightlessness and radiation exposure were not modeled, so the crew did not take drugs to prevent these negative factors. According to the experience of such isolation experiments, participants have catarrhal phenomena due to the limited hermetic volume and air recirculated in it, sanitary and hygienic conditions, as well as dietary habits. Fortunately, there were no critical health problems. The research program has been completed in full.

Stress under the microscope In total, more than 15 studies were carried out within the framework of the SKETCH, including in psychology and immunology. By the way, its name has nothing to do with the preliminary sketch of the artist. SKETCH is an acronym for Short Term Isolation Experiment in a Containment Facility. It is funded by the project of the Ministry of Education and Science “Pavlovsk Center“ Integrative Physiology – Medicine, High-Tech Healthcare and Stress Resilience Technologies ”and the Russian Science Foundation.“ The guys slept and worked in very cramped conditions. At the same time, as in a real flight to the moon, they did not have any simulators. There was simply nowhere to put them. The experiment put the crew in a stressful environment. And we looked at which pathways are involved in transmitting signals at the molecular-cellular level. For this purpose, blood samples were taken from all crew members on the third, seventh and 14th days of isolation. When a person is under great stress, we observe changes in the immune system. Our task is to understand the mechanism of these changes, ”said Sergei Ponomarev.

Outside the Earth When asked if the crew feels like returning from the Moon, the participants reply that it was more like some kind of specific scientific trip. “We definitely came back from somewhere. Not from the moon, of course, but there was a feeling of detachment. It arose somewhere on the fifth day. It’s as if you’re here, and the institute and everything else is somewhere out there, far away, although in reality we were only a few meters away from our colleagues, ”recalls Oleg Voloshin. the crew did not have docking and overflights. But in the middle of the experiment, when, according to the scenario, the participants “flew to the moon”, they had several “exits to the surface” using virtual reality. And this activity impressed the most. “Even the module for accessing the VR glasses has changed – it looks like a real lunar surface, with specific lighting, a landscape, when the Earth hangs unusually above the horizon,” shared her impressions of the crew researcher Svetlana Lebedeva. – Moreover, we felt the lunar surface not only visually, but also a little tactilely. This module contains sand. True, they put a film on it for the sake of cleanliness, but it is still felt underfoot. You walk in sneakers, hear the sand crunching under your feet, and see the white surface of the Moon, craters, the wind blows over you, because there are air conditioners. It hardly looks as if a person went out in a spacesuit, but at the same time the immersion, maybe a little fantasy, happened. When you see nothing for a week but a closed space, poor in impressions, it becomes a big discovery. ”Each crew member“ went to the surface of the moon ”twice: the first time as an assistant, and the second time to complete a mission. It was necessary to do a few physical exercises, drive the rover, drive from one crater to another. The crew took a long time to prepare for the “exit”, and when it finally happened, there was too little time allotted for everyone. This virtual immersion was so beautiful.

Additional virtual square meters Interaction with VR technologies was not limited to “exit”. A program was developed that simulates a cozy one-room house. The idea is to use this as a psychological support tool for astronauts who are away from home and their familiar terrestrial environment. They could put on VR-glasses and “walk” around a room furnished with sofas with pillows, tables with books, a fireplace, with a large panoramic window, behind which you can change the weather and lighting. Such a small base complex was built in VR so that the crew members could rest there or do something in between completing missions according to the “flight program.” “Of course, we tried not to wear VR glasses, because our module is very small , – said Svetlana Lebedeva. – We usually sat on a chair, and moved in virtual reality using joysticks. VR is a very interesting tool that you need to use, study its capabilities and human reactions to the virtual world. Whether it is necessary to enter this room often or rarely, whether it gives a rest between tasks or, for example, it is better for a person to be distracted and do something else. ”A crew researcher noted that wearing VR glasses for more than an hour or even half an hour is difficult: spent a lot of time at the monitors of devices, computers, and in the VR glasses, eyes got tired. We had ophthalmic techniques that allowed us to determine how eye fatigue occurs during the day. It is necessary to use it very carefully and carefully ”.

Team spirit However, virtual reality entertained the crew at least a little. The assignments were constantly being performed, and there was very little free time. In particular, it was studied how cramped conditions, isolation from society, monotonous activity affect the psychoemotional state of the participants in the experiment. “This is my first isolation experiment, so everything was new and informative for me. I discovered a lot for myself. I think we would have sat there for another two weeks (smiles). Our crew rallied well and completed all the tasks as they should. Despite the fact that we were in one small space, we managed to organize it in such a way as to carry out several methods at the same time in different locations, without interfering with each other, “said another crew researcher Herman Primachenko. Commander Oleg Voloshin noted that the crew is very lucky: “We saw ourselves as a team. We had no conflicts at all. ”We didn’t even have to divide the sleeping places. “We didn’t argue. There was a place for everyone, and there was no need to take turns sleeping. Flight engineer Maxim Belotsky volunteered to sleep on the floor on a mattress. Daria Pashkova slept in the transition compartment, which in routine experiments was used as an entrance to the module. And if there was a little less sleep than declared, it was because we allocated a little more time for ourselves to relax, “Svetlana Lebedeva admitted. The crew was allowed to take tablets with films, music, books. But often the guys preferred to relax together. They organized joint film screenings, mainly on the “space classics”: “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, “The Fifth Element”, the cartoon “The Mystery of the Third Planet”. They also solved Sudoku and played the board game “Imaginarium.” “The monotony made me feel tired. I wanted to somehow relax, rest. Sometimes we, young people, had spontaneous little games like “The swan flew across the blue sky”, reminiscent of “Ladushki”, and other games with movements. We were not allowed to do physical education, so we figured out how to discharge ourselves without raising the CO2 level too much, ”added Svetlana.

Hello Earth! The restriction in communication with relatives also affected. Only e-mail correspondence was available, and that was with a time delay. When someone received a letter, he was happy, shared the news with his crewmates. Thus, they tried to satisfy the information hunger. And there were still not enough new faces around. Imagine: every day you see only five of your colleagues. “It was a great joy for us to watch the greeting and farewell of the brigades on duty at the ground control post. These are very short videos at the beginning and at the end of the day, which the employees of our MCC recorded when they took over and left duty. They lasted literally 2-3 minutes, but for the sake of these videos we stopped all our work, waited until someone was free, went to the monitor and started recording. It was the only live channel with the outside world, “recalls researcher Lebedeva. Now the project participants have passed all the” post-flight examinations “and reunited with their families. The organizers of the experiment note that the scientific program has been completed in full, the crew is feeling well. The research results will be known in a few months. In the future, they plan to compare them with the data obtained in the framework of other experiments, such as “dry immersion”, in order to understand how different model conditions affect the human body.

Russian space, Svetlana Nosenkova


EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation from Russian Language to English.

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