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Salyut-7 Experiments Part-3


Chapter 4 provides details on the physiological and psychological aspects of long duration spaceflight based on information gleaned in the Soviet space program, as well as other information about biological aspects of the space station missions. This section will only review the types of experiments conducted, not their results.

From a medical perspective, the most interesting mission during the Salyut 7 era was the 1984 Soyuz T-10/T-11 crew that included a physician, Oleg Atkov. This was only the second time a medical doctor was included on a Soviet crew (the first time was Voskhod 1 in 1964). (42)

The virtues of having a physician aboard were extolled by doc­ tors on the ground who pointed out, for example, that for first time blood samples could be taken from veins as well as fingers. (43) They were also able to use maximum loads for the Chibis negative-pres­ sure suit, which could be dangerous if no doctor was aboard to monitor the effect on the cosmonauts. The desire to use greater loads was prompted by the need to discover the reserve capacities of the body. (44)

A.I. Grigoriev, deputy director of Institute of Biomedical Prob­ lems, noted that it was also possible to lengthen the intervals be­ tween days on which comprehensive medical exams were per­ formed, and to conduct medical research on practically any day. He said that cardiovascular studies "take up a larger portion of the flight program than during any previous mission. For the first time in space, the method of load tests has been employed to evaluate calcium metabolism, using the Biokhim instrument. Studies of the level of immunoglobulins in blood serum are expected to aid re­ search of changes in immunologic reactivity that have been noted in participants in certain prolonged space missions." (45) The deputy flight director of the 237 day Soyuz T-10/T-11 mission, V. Blagov, added that "The current mission is the first one in which a special­ ist is to draw conclusions regarding the quality of means of person­ al hygiene and certain parts of the station's everyday living con­ veniences." (46)

Despite the several very long duration Soviet flights, many un­ solved problems remained, including the effects of cosmic radiation, nervous and emotional stress caused by working on orbit, and motion sickness. (47) Therefore many medical experiments were con­ ducted throughout all the missions from 1984 to 1986, but especial­ly the Soyuz T-10/T-11 mission. Cosmonaut Feoktistov noted after the mission that: "Medical research and control on 33 parameters were carried out for 87 out of the 237 days. Some 317 medical measurements gathered data on the cardiovascular system, the ves- tibular apparatus, metabolism, vision, olfaction, circulatory and im­munity systems, psychophysiological functions, anthropometry, and the sanitary condition of the dwelling." (48)

Cosmonaut Volk commented at his Soyuz T-12 post-flight press conference that one reason for all the medical experiments is to be able to broaden the base from which cosmonauts can be chosen "to expand the list of professions" that can be represented on space- flights. (49)


Changes were made in the daily exercise regimen for the T-10/ T-ll crew. It was more vigorous, but could be accomplished in "only" two hours. It was noted that the change was permissible be­ cause a physician was aboard to monitor the cosmonauts. Called Sport, it used new physical conditioning regimens for the exercycle and running track. Oleg Gazenko, director of the Institute for Bio- medical Problems, stated that the new exercises consumed less time, but were more intensive and strenuous. Atkov was reported to be instrumental in evaluating the effectiveness of the new regi­men. (50) Shortening the length of time for exercise is important to increasing the productivity of the cosmonauts.

On the Soyuz T-12 flight, Cosmonaut Volk did not exercise as part of an experiment aimed at broadening scientists' understand­ ing of human reaction to spaceflight. Press reports said that his body was therefore functioning in "more difficult conditions" and that he was regularly taking tablets to reduce motion sickness symptoms. Atkov monitored him. (51)


Atkov was a cardiologist, so studies of the heart were quite prominent during the Soyuz T-10/T-11 mission. He helped design a special echocardiograph that weighed only 2.5 kilograms (kg), compared to 50-60 kg for those used on Earth. (52)

The Ballisto experiment evaluated the force of heart contrac­tions and the coordination of the functioning of the heart's right and left sections using ballistocardiography. The data were expect­ ed to broaden knowledge about changes in the heart's hemodyna- mics and function in weightlessness. Ballistocardiograms were re­corded using a piezoelectric accelerometer attached to three differ­ ent parts of the body in succession. Three-dimensional pictures of the distribution offerees of heart contractions were obtained. (53)

Vektor was a joint Soviet/Indian experiment to gain more infor­ mation on the phase structure of the cardiac cycle and on changes in the filling of the ventricles during various periods of cardiac ac­tivity, evaluating compensatory-adaptive reactions of the circulato­ry system using a number of new electrocardiographic and kineto- cardiographic methods. A portable vectorcardiograph was devel­ oped by the Indian "KHAL" firm that not only recorded the heart's electrical activity on tape, but also vibrations of the chest caused by heartbeats. (54)

Motion Sickness

Studies to determine the causes of space motion sickness (also known as space adaptation syndrome) in some cosmonauts when they first arrive in space continued during all the flights from 1984-1986 on Salyut 7. As noted by Igor Komordin, chief of the Soviet Ministry of Health Administration of Space Biology and Medicine, at the beginning of the 237 day mission "[t]he majority of people who have been in space have suffered to one degree or an­ other from motion sickness." (55) Still, the causes of, and effective remedies to, this problem have eluded physicians.

The Optokinez experiment studied oculomotor function and ves-tibular-visual interactions by observing the pupils and how they re­ spond to certain light stimuli. Early in the T-10/T-11 mission, So- lovyev was tested by putting his head inside a large square box while Atkov switched on a revolving drum which caused streaks oflight to run rapidly through the inside of the box. Solovyev fol­ lowed these streaks with his eyes. Later, it was reported that the cosmonauts followed the movement of visual stimuli on the screen of a videotape recorder. Electrooculograms, electrocardiograms and pneumograms were recorded during the experiment. (56) Malyshev and Sharma did this experiment when their Soyuz T-ll crew vis­ ited the T-10 crew. (57)

Sharma, the Indian cosmonaut, also performed Yoga exercises to study changes in biomechanics of motion and impairments of co­ordination in space. Instruments called "Miokomp" and "Briz" re­corded certain parameters of motor activity of groups of muscles during the exercises. Sharma did the exercises for one hour every day for six weeks prior to flight, and continued to do them on the space station, strapped into position on the treadmill. (58) The data were later compared with Sharma's two Soviet colleagues who served as controls. (59)

The T-ll/T-10 crew members used the Pnevmatik and Braslet devices, special cuffs of different designs, to slow the flow of blood from the lower half of the body so the rush of blood to their heads was not as intensive. The Pnevmatik test was also performed with the with T-12 crew and Cosmonaut Volk commented in a post- flight press conference that the device created "a deposition of blood in the legs" which hampered redistribution of blood to the upper half of the body. He reported that Savitskaya had done this on her first flight (in 1982) and that it also had been done by other cosmonauts and "showed a sufficiently effective preventative action." During the experiments, the crew members filled out ques­ tionnaires about their sensations, which were compared with pre- flight data. (60)

Other Medical

The Membrana experiment studied the body's loss of salt in weightlessness and how to retard it. Atkov drew blood samples from Strekalov's fingers during the Soyuz T-ll/T-10 mission and injected it into 30 sealed ampules containing biocomponents. Stre- kalov returned them to Earth for analysis. (61) Gluykometer was a biochemical experiment for studying features of carbohydrate me­ tabolism. (62)

Atkov made sanitary-and-hygienic studies to find out, for exam­ ple, how much dust there was and where it comes from, whether the fans create drafts that could cause a cold, if the work areas were illuminated properly, whether clothing and footwear were comfortable, and if the personal hygiene facilities were effective. "These are far from minor details and these factors at times deter­ mine both the mood of the cosmonauts, their feelings and to some degree the success of carrying out the flight program." (63)

He also performed a number of otorhinolaryngologic exams and studies of the fundus of the eye which yielded data on dynamics of blood supply of the rhinopharynx, the tympanic membrane and the eye during various periods of adaptation to weightlessness. (64)

After the mission, Atkov commented on the psychological aspects of the mission following queries about pre-flight concerns that the dynamics of a three person crew might create "two against one" disputes. Atkov said that no problem developed because all the crew members understood that they were doing serious work whose results depended on their good relationship. He said that in those cases where a problem did occur between two members of the crew, "we would not appeal to the third member and would work out the problem independently. The third member, if he could, would try to find a compromise solution. And everything always worked out in the interests of the matter." (65)

The Opros (questionnaire) experiment, used initially in the Soviet/Polish spaceflight, was expanded by questions recommended by specialists in India. The experiment was described as allowing the cosmonauts to make self-assessments of the characteristics of motion in weightlessness, the features of performing familiar oper­ ations and forming new work habits, appetite and sleep habits, and interactions with other crew members. The information can be used to assess a crew member's psychological adaptation. (66)

The Soyuz T-14 crew brought the Signal-RD experiment which the Soviets said stood for "reflex diagnostics." The Soviet press re­ ported that "Scientists now agree that the human body has a mul­titude of points that are connected with various internal organs. Acting on them with a thin needle or an electric current, it is pos­ sible to fight many ailments. And it is also possible to get an accu­rate diagnosis—a change in electrical resistance gives physicians valuable information on how one feels." The device was described as being the size of a telephone, and able to "examine as many things as an experienced therapeutist could." (67)


While the Soyuz T-12 crew was aboard, the Soviet/French "Citos-3" experiment was conducted to study the effect of space-flight on the permeability of walls of cells of microorganisms and other characteristics. Citos-3 was an improved version of previous experiments of this nature which "yielded remarkable results" that "enabled scientists to ascertain the resistance of microbes to various antibiotics." While the crew conducted the experiment in space, it was also performed on the ground for comparison pur­ poses. (68)

In 1985, plant growth experiments resumed using equipment de­ livered by Cosmos 1669, apparently the Biogravistat apparatus which had a centrifuge for studying plants in artificial gravity. An­ other experiment, called Substrat, was designed to evaluate the ef fectiveness of cultivating higher plants in weightlessness. 69 Refer­ ence was also made to the Oazis and Vazon space greenhouses to study the development of high plants in weightlessness. Oasis, Vazon and Biogravistat were said to be studying pepper, onion and lettuce. (70)

The Meduza experiment was also carried out using samples at­tached to the outside of the space station on an EVA by the Soyuz T-13 crew. The experiment dealt with synthesizing components of nucleic acids. (71) It was later described as studying the long term effect of zero gravity and radiation on biopolymers, and was re­ trieved by the Soyuz T-15 crew. (72)

In July, 1987, a report was made on an experiment conducted by the Soyuz T-13 crew on Salyut 7 for growing cotton seeds. The Soviet press reported that the T-13 crew brought back to Earth 20 seedlings that had been planted in space; they were then replanted on Earth and a second generation of plants was now appearing. The report went on to say that the first two experiments for grow­ ing seeds in orbit had been unsuccessful, and the crew this time had "literally breathed on the seedlings" and devised a special wa­ tering procedure. The first green leaves appeared while the mission was still in progress, so cotton became the third crop (after wheat and peas) to sprout on a spaceship. According to the report "inter­ esting changes in fiber lengths are now being observed in one of the plants" (73) and they plan to continue the studies in the future.



35. Krasnaya Zvezda, May 27, 1984, p. 1.

36. Moscow Domestic Service, 0800 GMT, May 31, 1986.

37. Pravda, June 1,1986, p. 6.

38.Pravda, August 16, 1986, p. 3.

39. Moskovskaya Pravda, September 4,1985, p. 1.
40. TASS, 1557 GMT, October 15,1985.

41. Trud, May 29,1986, p. 3.

42. Vasiliy Lazarev, who flew on Soyuz 12 in 1973, had a degree in aviation medicine, but had turned to piloting activities in 1954. Since he had not been a practicing doctor for almost 20 years before his flight, he is not counted as a physician-cosmonaut in this report.

43. Meditsinskaya gazeta, April 11, 1984.

44. Izvestiya, March 3, 1984.

45. Meditsinskaya Gazeta, August 8, 1984.

46. Trud, February 13, 1984.

47. Meditsinskaya gazeta, March 2, 1984.

48. Aerospace America, May 1985, p. 97.

49. Moscow Domestic Service, 0655 GMT, August 10, 1984.

50. Meditsinskaya gazeta, April 1,1984 and May 18, 1984.

51. Izvestiya, July 22, 1984.

52. Izvestiya, August 24,1984.

53. Sotsialisticheskaya Industriya, April 10, 1984; Meditsinskaya Gazeta, April 13, 1984.
54. Sotsialisticheskaya Industriya, April 10, 1984.

55. Izvestiya, March 3,1984, p. 3.

56. Trud, February 13, 1984; Meditsinskaya Gazeta, April 13, 1984.

57. TASS, 1127 GMT, April 5, 1984.

58. Meditsinskaya gazeta, April 6, 1984; Sotsialisticheskaya Industriya, April 7, 1984; Izvestiya,
April 7, 1984.

59. "ERR14' 59 Pravda, April 7, 1984.

60. Moscow Domestic Service, 0655 GMT, August 10, 1984.

61. Krasnaya Zvezda, April 10, 1984; Meditsinskaya Gazeta, April 13, 1984.

62. Pravda, March 24, 1984.

63. Izvestiya, February 18, 1984.

64. Meditsinskaya Gazeta, May 18, 1984.

65. Meditsinskaya Gazeta, April 12, 1985.

66. Pravda, April 7, 1984.

67. Komsomolskaya Pravda, September 21, 1985, p. 2.

68. Pravda July 22, 1984; Sovetskaya Rossiya, July 22, 1984; Moscow Domestic Service, 0655
GMT, August 10, 1984.

69. Ivanova, T. N., and P. T. Rostov. Prospects for the Use of the Higher Plants in Space Flight—Experiment "Substrat." Presented at the 37th Congress of the International Astronauti cal Federation, Oct. 4-11, 1986, Innsbruck, Austria. IAF/IAA-86-374.

70. TASS, 0934 GMT, July 23, 1985; Izvestiya, August 28, 1985, p. 1; Moscow Domestic Service, 0500 GMT, October 1, 1985; TASS, 1114 GMT, October 18, 1985; TASS, 1337 GMT, October 22, 1985.

71. TASS, 1052 GMT, August 9, 1985.

72. Trud, May 29,1986, p. 3.

73. Pravda Vostoka, July 22,1987, p. 3.