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Hohenstein looks forward to results of ISS project

Among the activities German astronaut Dr Alexander Gerst will carry out during his stay on the International Space Station (ISS) is a project to investigate how the body, clothing and climate interact under zero gravity conditions.

Dr Gerst launched for his second tour to the ISS on June 6. He will serve as commander during his stay, only the second European astronaut to ever do so.

During his time in space, he will take part in experiments related to Spacetex2, a joint project between research and testing body the Hohenstein Institute, Charité University Medical Department in Berlin, the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and the European Space Agency.

It will include physiology experiments to examine the issue of clothing comfort in zero gravity. The findings of these experiments will be used to optimise clothing for astronauts, especially with regards to long-term missions, such as the proposed manned flights to Mars in the 2030s.

The project is also expected to offer important insights into the development of new functional textiles for use on Earth in extreme climatic and physiological conditions. 

In addition to his regular training sessions on the ISS, Dr Gerst will complete six special training sessions using different functional shirts. They were developed with the help of experiments he carried out during his last mission to the ISS in 2014. Findings from that mission will also serve as a framework for the experiments he will carry out this time. 

Special sensors will provide data on respiratory flow, heart rate and oxygen saturation. This will allow an assessment to be made of the effect of the different shirts on the body temperature, their wear comfort and their performance. 

The project manager of Spacetex2 is Hohenstein’s Dr Jan Beringer, who has said: “Like on Earth, the human body emits heat when under strain and tries to cool itself down in this way. However, zero gravity changes heat exchange on the surface of the body - there is no loss of heat due to convection when in space.

"During physical activity, heat thus builds up quicker than on earth. The result of this is that the core body temperature rapidly climbs to values that are too high to be healthy. Therefore, it is very important to optimise heat exchange through the evaporative cooling of sweat by clothing made of appropriate materials.”

Hohenstein has said the Spacetex2 experiments are expected to take place this month. The results will be available to scientists shortly afterwards via data downlink to Earth. They will then be included in subsequent research. 

“Now it is the moment of truth - the examination of three shirts in space, each with a different cooling performance. We are all very excited about the results,” Dr Beringer added.

Image shows Dr Alexander Gerst (left) during a training session at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany.

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