The U.S. Navy’s formidable Kraken device is set to assist NASA in a groundbreaking study aimed at mitigating the effects of spaceflight on astronauts. By subjecting a group of active duty service members to intense accelerations and disorienting motions, the study aims to uncover ways to alleviate symptoms of dizziness, nausea, and vertigo that astronauts commonly experience during space missions.
Unleashing the Kraken:
NASA announced that 24 active duty service members will have the opportunity to experience a 60-minute ride aboard the 50-foot-long Kraken machine. This monstrous device, capable of reaching accelerations up to three times the force of gravity, will simulate the physical stresses encountered by astronauts during spaceflight. The goal is to enable scientists to develop strategies for reducing the discomfort experienced by astronauts upon reentry into Earth’s gravity.
Understanding Astronaut Motion Sickness:
For many astronauts, the most challenging aspect of space travel lies in the journey itself. Motion sickness can significantly impact their physical well-being during launch and return to Earth. NASA astronaut Douglas Wheelock described feeling disoriented and akin to being on a merry-go-round during liftoff in the space shuttle. To address these issues, the Kraken is designed to subject occupants to sudden shifts in roll, pitch, yaw, and vertical and horizontal lurches, emulating a variety of flight scenarios.
The Study and Its Objectives:
The upcoming study will focus on a spaceflight-specific setting, allowing NASA scientists to investigate whether specific head movements can alleviate astronauts’ motion sickness symptoms post-flight. By utilizing the Kraken’s unique capabilities, which enable complex flight simulations, including landing scenarios that induce vertigo and nausea, the researchers hope to gain valuable insights.
Study Procedures and Measurements:
Following their experience in the Kraken, the 24 volunteers will be divided into two groups. Twelve participants will perform prescribed head turns and tilts while wearing video goggles to track their head and eye movements. These goggles will measure blink frequency, changes in heart rate, and other indicators of motion sickness. All volunteers will undergo tests assessing their balance, walking speed, endurance, and obstacle navigation. These tasks, though seemingly straightforward, are expected to be more challenging after the intense 60-minute ride aboard the Kraken.
Unlocking the Secrets of Balance Recovery:
Anecdotal evidence from astronauts suggests that slight head movements aid in recovering a sense of balance more quickly. The Kraken study will provide researchers with rigorous data to determine which head movements, if any, facilitate astronauts’ rapid recovery of balance. Michael Schubert, a neurophysiologist at Johns Hopkins University and lead author of the study, emphasizes that the Kraken tests will contribute to a deeper understanding of how astronauts can regain equilibrium efficiently.
The collaboration between the U.S. Navy’s Kraken device and NASA’s study represents a significant step forward in addressing motion sickness issues faced by astronauts. By subjecting participants to the intense forces and disorienting motions of the Kraken, scientists aim to uncover strategies that will enhance astronauts’ well-being during space missions. The results of this study hold the potential to improve the overall experience of space travel and further contribute to advancements in astronaut health and safety.
By Impact Lab