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MOSCOW, April 10 (Itar-Tass) — Russians from Expedition 30 to the International Space Station (ISS) on Tuesday will for the first time put into permanent operation a lower body negative pressure suit (LBNP) for effective preparation of the body for the Earth’s gravity.
“Within the framework of the planned preparation for landing flight engineers Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin will conduct the first training session on the new equipment Chibis-M that was installed in the Russian segment of the ISS in late February,” Irina Alferova, the chiefof the medical group of the Mission Control Centre (MCC) outside Moscow told Itar-Tass. The third Russian cosmonaut - Oleg Kononenko who had undergone special training before flying to orbit will help the colleagues to master the upgraded device.
The Russian cosmonauts on a mandatory basis “try on” the Chibis sealed “trousers” that help achieve the effect of Earth’s gravity by creating negative pressure on the lower part of the body, during the final phase of the flight, the MCC said. During three weeks they “stand” in the sealed device four times a day for 20 minutes, and in the final two days before the descent to Earth the time of the “artificial gravity” sessions is increased up to 55 minutes. During them physicians continuously measure the cosmonauts’ heart rate and blood pressure.
Chibis is the below-the-waist reduced-pressure device designed to provide gravity-simulating stress to the body’s cardiovascular/circulatory system. The suit forms an airtight seal around the waist and applies suction to the lower body. The body’s circulatory system interprets the pressure differential between upper and lower body as a gravity-like force pulling the blood (and other liquids) down.
“Unlike its previous version, the Chibis-M device is equipped with a computer with a monitor large enough allowing to set different pressure regimes,” explained Sergei Pozdnyakov, the Director General of the Zvezda Research and Production Enterprise that made the “smart trousers.” The old device was equipped with an air pressure valve using which the operator on a special table set modes and controlled pressure with a manometer. Thus, one of the astronauts had to always assist his colleague that had a training session in the Chibis suit. And the Chibis-M suit is automated: its computer sets certain modes of influence and controls it, and the astronaut can only glance at the monitor.
According to Alferova, “during six months in weightlessness, human muscles atrophy, so cosmonauts’ bodies must be prepared in advance for adaptation to terrestrial conditions.” In addition to training in the Chibis suit, two weeks ahead of returning home, the astronauts begin to take specific food supplements, and on the day of the descent - saline solutions in order to prevent dehydration during landing.
The landing of the last analogue Soyuz TMA-22 spaceship on which Shkaplerov, Ivanishin and NASA astronaut Daniel Burbank will return to Earth, is scheduled for April 27, the MCC said.