In November 2021, Matthias Maurer launched a SpaceX rocket from Cape Canaveral to the International Space Station. Now back after nearly six months – summary.
What did Matthias Maurer actually do on the International Space Station in the six months?
Matthias Maurer is not only an astronaut, but also an excellent materials scientist. That is why he also conducted some experiments aboard the International Space Station, which included the search for new materials. For example, he examined new types of metal surfaces that bacteria and viruses cannot attach to.
He even produced concrete in zero gravity and also cured part of the moon dust in this concrete. This lunar dust concrete may one day be used to build shelters on the moon.
Another material that Maurer has dealt with is human skin. He transplanted skin cells on the International Space Station and performed medical experiments on himself. Often these subjective experiences are about discovering how the human body changes during long periods of stay in weightlessness and what can be done to better deal with these changes.
There was also work to be done on the space station itself
In addition to experiments, he always had tasks related to station operation and expansion: using a robotic arm that he controlled from inside the ISS, he had to grab a cargo spacecraft on approach and dock it with the ISS.
However, the highlight of his mission was certainly his field assignment in space: He worked nearly seven hours, secured by lines, outside the space station. He laid a few meters of new cable and, as he says himself, felt a whole new interest in geography when he saw many landscapes on Earth.
How is the landing?
The removal from the ISS was successful, albeit with a delay of a few minutes due to a problem with the data exchange between the spacecraft and the ISS, which turned out to be insignificant.
After exiting the space station, the spacecraft and its four-man crew continue to orbit Earth at a safe distance below the International Space Station for several hours. The braking missiles were fired about an hour before landing. Then the capsule begins to fall off.
Back to Earth is a difficult journey. Due to the glowing air around the capsule, there was no radio communication with the ground for several minutes. When the parachutes open, the crew feels a violent jerk, swings under the parachute and then water splashes into the sea, rapidly dropping the cyclist into the sea off Florida.
The crew experiences all this as gravity holds the body back for the first time in six months and the heart now has to pump blood against gravity to the head and back to the brain.
The four crew members wear compression pants to prevent blood from pooling in their legs and to prevent fainting spells.
Then the capsule, which is floating in the sea, is lifted by a crane onto a rescue ship. Only then are the astronauts taken out of the capsule and taken straight to their first medical check-up – most of them on a stretcher because they are too tired to walk straight. So, in the end, this is another really difficult part of the six-month job.