All life on Earth developed under the influence of gravity. Our cardiovascular system is attuned perfectly to the condition of gravity. Yet it continues to work within astronauts in space. How is this possible? What makes our cardiovascular system so flexible? What rules govern the system?
During our experiment, you heart will beat faster and your blood pressure will rise. How does an astronaut’s cardiovascular system adapt to life in weightlessness and the subsequent return to Earth? Which reflex controls the reaction? This medical experiment will help to answer these questions.
Research for extreme situations
ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter. Credit: ESA
Humans will soon be part of an even more highly technological and mobile society. This is true not only for life on Earth but for space, too. Staying healthy and functional in these environments in vital, therefore it is important to find out how weightlessness influences our body. However, as counterintuitive as it may sound, it is often not possible to understand basic functions of the human body without “switching off” the influence of gravity.
Let off some steam in the DLR_School_Lab
Student conducting the experiment cardiovascular physiology. Credit: DLR
…and blow into a tube. This will increase the pressure in your ribcage and you will perform a Valsalva manoeuvre, just as astronaut hopefuls and fighter pilots in training have to do. How does your cardiovascular system react? How do your heart rate, breathing and blood pressure influence each other? Measure their rates and try to work out how your cardiovascular system is regulated.