Objective Mars, the new mission of the ISS.
The ISS is above all a laboratory, where the effects of gravity on humans are studied in order to prepare for future space missions.
In the absence of gravity, the human body loses muscle mass and its eyesight becomes cloudy.
Astronauts sent to the station for 6 months are also exposed to the equivalent of 240 radios of the lungs, estimates Le Monde – due to solar radiation.
During his first mission, Thomas Pesquet himself served as a guinea pig to study the effects of loss of reference mark on the brain, a characteristic of weightlessness but also of several neurodegenerative diseases, reports France Bleu .
While six years ago, his mission was “very focused on health”, it “is more about exploration,” the astronaut told the media.
“This reflects a change of direction on the part of NASA […]. For three or four years, with the announcement of the return to the Moon with the Artemis program, the emphasis has been increasingly on exploring and preparing for this trip and the one to Mars, ”he explains.
Thomas Pesquet, for example, will work on nerve cells to study the cellular aging of the brain, which would be faced by astronauts during their trip to Mars; he will also sleep equipped with an encephalographic sensor which will allow him to study his sleep, very disturbed by the 16 sunrises and sunsets per day that the ISS allows to observe.
Too high a cost for its scientific interest?
But is the game worth the candle? In 2001, the French Parliamentary Office for the Evaluation of Scientific and Technological Choices, quoted by the magazine Ça m’intinterest , judged that the ISS was “a significant expense for the research budget while this very large equipment is mainly political, strategic, even industrial “.
Each of the scientific publications published after work on board costs an average of 83 million euros, reports the magazine, while some experiments, like the remote ultrasound system tested by Thomas Pesquet, could very well have taken place on Earth. .
“We must not deceive citizens by telling them that the ISS is absolutely essential for science, explains François Forget, astrophysicist and research director at the CNRS, interviewed in Marianne .
Even if the ISS has a technical and scientific interest, we do not engage this kind of means only for research. There is a whole symbolic significance. “
The strength of a symbol of international cooperation
The International Space Station makes it possible to raise public awareness of science and space: 2,000 primary, middle and high school classes will thus follow Thomas Pesquet’s experiments on blobs, unicellular organisms whose behavior he will study in the space.