Astronaut Rosemary Coogan on overcoming the temptation to ‘swim’ in microgravity

Not many individuals encounter weightlessness of their day jobs, however for Rosemary Coogan, the UK’s latest astronaut, it was an “extraordinarily thrilling” expertise the place she needed to overcome the temptation to “swim” in microgravity, and carry out CPR whereas anchored the wrong way up.

Only a week earlier than gaining her astronaut wings, Ms Coogan and her colleagues got entry to what the European Area Company (ESA) described as “a style of area” within the remaining leg of their primary coaching.

The brand new era of ESA astronauts boarded Airbus’s “Zero G” A310 aircraft for his or her first parabolic flight expertise with the company, the place the plane was manoeuvred to create brief durations of weightlessness or microgravity situations.

Ms Coogan stated the preliminary focus was on studying the right way to transfer with out the constraints of gravity.

She stated: “There was lots of emphasis on some easy issues, like simply transferring round.

“It’s truly fairly tough and there’s a temptation to try to swim, which isn’t in any respect applicable, as we came upon fairly shortly.”

It is because whereas actions in microgravity don’t require any effort, stopping and controlling one’s movement want observe.

And with out the resistance offered by gravity, even a tiny motion could cause uncontrollable spinning or floating too far.

However Ms Coogan and fellow ESA astronauts – Sophie Adenot from France, Pablo Alvarez Fernandez from Spain, Raphael Liegeois from Belgium, and Marco Sieber from Switzerland – had been fast to study and, throughout their second flight, the crew took turns to deal with instruments similar to screwdrivers, and moved alongside the cabin utilizing tethers, handrails and spacesuit gloves.

She stated: “We had been utilizing primarily a form of electrical screwdriver, and also you realise that whenever you begin (utilizing it), you find yourself turning, quite than the screwdriver, and you want to anchor your self right down to have that working successfully.”

In one other train Ms Coogan carried out CPR on a dummy, whereas anchored the wrong way up.

She stated: “If you happen to tried on-Earth strategies for CPR in weightlessness, you’d discover that as a substitute of pushing down on the affected person, you’d as a substitute float up and away, so you want to anchor your self.

“You’ll be able to clear up this by doing CPR the wrong way up, together with your ft on the “ceiling” (the wall reverse the affected person), and utilizing your legs to offer the pushing drive.

“It was hanging to be reminded that strategies wanted in an emergency can differ massively on the area station than what we’re used to on Earth.”

Rosemary Coogan

Rosemary Coogan, centre, with colleagues, from left, Pablo Alvarez Fernandez, Sophie Adenot, Marco Sieber, Australia’s Katherine Bennell-Pegg and Raphael Liegeois (P. Sebirot/ESA)

Also referred to as the “vomit comet”, the zero-gravity spaceflight could make astronauts really feel in poor health, however Ms Coogan stated that she and her colleagues had discovered the precise medicine and methods that labored.

She stated: “It’s actually necessary to discover these boundaries and, fortunately, none of us had been sick.”

Ms Coogan stated that whereas parabolic flight was “great”, her most rewarding expertise was the winter survival coaching within the snowy mountains of the Spanish Pyrenees – which prepares them for the potential of a spacecraft touchdown in a distant or surprising location.

Abilities included studying the right way to create fires within the wilderness, managing cold-related accidents and hypothermia, setting up makeshift stretchers, constructing snow shelters and enduring sub-zero temperatures.

Ms Coogan stated: “There was an actual emphasis on attending to know your self and the right way to take care of one another inside the crew, and actually having a correct situational consciousness of precisely what sort of nature you had been in and the right way to stay in an emergency state of affairs.

“I believe the mix of sensible abilities, with the very fact it was team-based, was very well performed.

“I felt it was a very particular expertise.”

Rosemary Coogan during winter survival training in the snowy mountains of the Spanish Pyrenees as part of her basic astronaut training

Rosemary Coogan throughout winter survival coaching within the snowy mountains of the Spanish Pyrenees (Trailhaven/ESA/PA)

An astrophysicist with two grasp’s levels from Durham College and an astronomy doctorate from Sussex, Ms Coogan was chosen to hitch the ESA’s astronaut coaching programme in 2022, after beating greater than 22,500 candidates.

She stated: “I’ve at all times wished to be an astronaut and I really feel so extremely fortunate to have reached this level and be eligible to be assigned to a flight now.

“It has been a very long-standing dream and I’ve at all times been very concerned with area, and earlier than beginning this coaching, I used to be doing analysis in astrophysics – so I used to be working in area, however in a really completely different approach.

“And now the thought to have the ability to truly go to area and assist the groups on floor to hold out science in area itself may be very, very a lot a dream come true.”

Ms Coogan, who was born in Northern Eire, is the UK’s third astronaut, following Helen Sharman, who grew to become the primary Briton in area in 1989, and Tim Peake, who went to the Worldwide Area Station (ISS) in 2015.

As a part of the subsequent steps, she and her colleagues will participate in pre-assignment and mission particular coaching, which may lead to long-duration missions to the ISS.

Ms Coogan stated: “As an astronaut, a really particular a part of the job is the likelihood to share this journey and expertise to hopefully encourage youthful generations to be concerned with area.

“What I’d actually say to anyone who does really feel impressed is to maintain pursuing what you have an interest in and to utterly go for it.”


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