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How did space researchers know that 90-year-old William Shatner didn’t have to worry about his age?



At the time, at least one thing became certain: yes, a non-calendarist can be an astronaut.

Shatner became the oldest person to travel into space when his ship, a suborbital space tourism rocket built by Blue Origin, the company funded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, swept the border of the United States. ‘terrestrial atmosphere and turned it into weightlessness. And Shatner’s oldest space record surpassed that set just a few months earlier by Wally Funk, whom NASA denied him the opportunity to fly in the 1960s before joining Bezos on his own. Blue Origin flight in July at age. of 82.

But while Shatner described the benefit of floating on Earth as “deep,” getting there isn’t always the most comfortable.

Chris Boshuizen, co-founder of the satellite company Planet Labs who flew alongside Shatner, said that when its blue origin returned to the thick Earth’s atmosphere from the emptiness of space, it was as if it were a stone smashing against a mass of water.

“When a stone hits a lake, it stops and sinks,” Boshuizen told reporters. “So we literally touched the atmosphere and stopped, and it was about 5Gs … I’ve never experienced it. I was trying to smile, but my jaw went back to my head.”

Private space companies have been committed for years to opening spaceflight to more people. But Americans are accustomed to imagining astronauts as people in privileged physical condition, eliminated from competitive selection processes such as those overseen by NASA. So is it really safe for anyone, even a 90-year-old, to go into space?

A series of studies in the 2010s he tried to answer that question. Researchers put people with pre-existing medical conditions, including older men with heart conditions, in a yarn centrifuge to simulate the forces ga what the body undergoes during a space trip.
The subjects were tied to a small capsule attached to a massive metal arm that can rotate the capsule around a circle. The faster it rotates, the greater the g forces that press on the passenger, similar to the carnival rides which fix the passengers to the wall of a rotating circle by rotating the circle at high speeds. When the centrifuge is stopped, it can be said that passengers inside experience 1G or normal gravity on Earth.

At 2G, they feel like they weigh twice as much as their body weight. In 5G, a 200-pound person feels like they weigh 1,000 pounds.

Donoviel noted three specific studies that allowed people – with a wide range of ages, physical conditions and illnesses – to last up to 6G.

“They were fine, they were perfectly fine,” Donoviel said. “The only thing that worried them when they did these studies was really anxiety and definitely claustrophobia. “
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In a 2015 paper, according to the researchers, up to 14% of the subjects in an experiment suffered from anxiety so severe that it interfered with their ability to complete centrifuge training. According to the document, it was not easy to predict who might respond in this way, even when pre-existing anxiety conditions were taken into account. The report called for more research on the area and suggested possible treatments, such as therapy and medications.

For its part, Blue Origin places some limitations on who can fly aboard New Shepard, its suborbital space tourism rocket, including the age requirement that tourists be over 18, between 5’0 “and 6 ‘4 “and 110 pounds and 223 pounds and being fit enough to climb seven flights of stairs in a minute and a half.

Climbing stairs is no joke: Blue Origin passengers must quickly climb what is called the portico, a tower that allows the crew to access its capsule while the 60-foot-tall rocket sits on the launch pad, full of fuel and ready to explode. .

Shatner joked about climbing the tower after his flight, saying “good sir, just lift the bloody porch.”

But Donoviel said he believes even small children could be dragged into outer space without worrying about an otherwise safe rocket ride.

“In fact, I have no worries about children flying,” he said. “As long as they’re big enough to fit in the seats … Same as making a roller coaster: you have to be so tall to do it.”

It should be noted that getting to space (and especially returning to it) is not necessarily comfortable, although all Blue Origin passengers on Wednesday were excited about their trip.

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Space flight passengers often describe moments of unease with nostalgic joy. After all, it can be a visceral reminder to take a supersonic excursion into outer space.

And, in Shatner’s case, it seemed to provide a transformative experience.

It’s not something a person can understand until “you’re up there and you see the black darkness, the ugliness,” he told CNN’s Kristin Fisher in a post-flight interview. “From our point of view, space is full of mystery … but right now it’s black and dead. Right now here, as we look down, [Earth] it is life and food. That’s what everyone needs to know. “

If the last eight months are an indicator, Shatner is far from the last civilian to experience space flight. So far, in 2021, more than 20 people who do not mark astronauts as day jobs have made a trek to the so-called final frontier and none of them proved they lacked the proverbial “proper things“(Although, it should be noted, none of them had to pilot their respective spacecraft and most have only made minute trips into suborbital space.)

Aside from physiological concerns, any future participant should keep in mind that spaceflight is intrinsically risky. To hit enough speed and power to defy gravity, rockets must use powerful, controlled explosions and complex technology that always carries some uncertainty.