On January 10, 2024, Sweden's next astronaut Marcus Wandt is scheduled to leave for the International Space Station (ISS). During his space journey, he will be a medical test subject and perform experiments on behalf of KTH. This gives Sweden another astronaut with strong links to KTH.
As part of the Orbital Architecture research project, KTH researchers will investigate how people's physical and mental health is affected when being in confined spaces for long periods of time.
Better design for extreme environments
Researchers Michail Magkos and Mikael Forsman will analyze Wandt's stress, cognitive performance, heart activity and movements. Data collected and comparisons from different parts of the space station will provide a better understanding of how the design of space environments affects astronauts' thinking and stress levels.
"Marcus' experiment will provide insight into how we can use design to reduce stress and increase the cognitive capacity of astronauts in space. The research results can not only contribute to a better living environment for future astronauts, but can also be transferred to extreme environments on Earth. These include submarines, Arctic research stations and off-shore platforms," said Magkos.
He believes a better understanding of how architecture affects those on a space station, will increase the possibility for more astronauts going to space. This is highly relevant as humanity enters a "New Space Era" in space exploration, for example.
In the coming months, Wandt will prepare for the medical research. This includes pre-launch samples and tests that will be repeated during the spaceflight and after the return to Earth. In this way, researchers will be able to see how much the body has been affected by being in space.
Three percent longer body
Given that only about 300 people have been in space for more than eight days, the data collected is important. It is only after the week or so in space that the vast majority of body changes take place. The body becomes about three percent longer, fluid is redistributed, balance and vision, and muscle and bone mass are affected. Wandt will be on the ISS for two weeks.
"By understanding how weightlessness affects the body, we can find medical solutions on Earth, such as ways to prevent osteoporosis and learn more about how the body ages. It's good that we can take the opportunity to do these experiments while going into space, as it would be less appropriate to subject people on Earth to the same treatment," says Wandt.
Sweden's first astronaut Christer Fuglesang is now a professor of space physics at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, as well as the director of the KTH Space Center which was established in 2014.
This article was first published on 30 November by KTH.