Bonjour from International Space University!

Elizabeth's journal about her experience at International Space University in Strasbourg, France. Read on to find out what she did...

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Space Monkey

Today was busy with more lectures, but the highlight of the day was the ride to and from campus. James from Australia showed me a different way that runs along the canal. It's beautiful, you don't have to fight traffic, and you get a really good workout. It's about the same amount of time. Although it's probably a little bit longer in distance, but not having to deal with traffic and lights makes up for the time. The lectures today were satellite imaging payloads, remote sensing applications, and remote sensing data distribution and policies.

We had a workshop this afternoon, and I had the opportunity to participate in the Neurobiology workshop with Jeff Jones. We started with a teleconference with two of the astronauts from a Neurolab mission, Dr. J. Buckey and Dr. D. Williams. They talked a little about their findings and gave us the chance to ask some questions. Then we actually did some experiments for ourselves. I started by putting on goggles that turn everything upside down and attempting to navigate through a maze. At the end of the maze, I was asked to write "space monkey" on a flip chart. I actually did it pretty well, but I was relying on my memory to form the letters. If you were to write it as an upside down mirror image, it would look right to you with the goggles on, so the trick was to make it look right to everyone else. After that I had to find my way to a table with a small piece of paper where I was asked to write my name, which I actually ended up doing backwards, draw a stick man, and get from start to finish on a maze on paper. The next experiment was one where I was put in an office type chair and spun for 20 seconds with my eyes open. When they stopped me, they measured the movement of my eyes. Apparently I adapt to things rather well because the movement of my eyes was small and adjust to normal quickly. Then they had me try moving my head up and down while spinning, which was actually easier because you have a better sense of where you are. The final experiment was throwing a ball and hitting a target. Once I mastered that, which took me a while, I put on another pair of goggles that adjusted your vision by about 15 degrees. Then you master throwing the ball at the target again by adjusting to the new view. Once I had done that, they had me take the goggles off and try again. Of course, I was off by about 15 degrees and had to adapt once again. All of this was to give you an idea of what it's like to adapt to things in space and when you return.

The workshop was followed by a class meeting about our test, which takes place next Saturday! There is a lot of material to learn between now and then!