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M.I.T./Canadian vestibular experiments on the Spacelab-1 mission: 4. Space motion sickness: symptoms, stimuli, and predictability

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Summary

Space sickness symptoms were observed by 4 specially trained observers on Spacelab-1. Three reported persistent symptoms, and vomited repeatedly during the first and/or second day of flight. Head movements on all axes were provocative, particularly in pitch and roll. Head acceleration data recorded from 2 symptomatic crewmen showed that after several hours of physical activity in orbit, symptoms appeared, and thereafter both crewmen were compelled to limit head movements. Firm body contact with motionless surfaces helped alleviate symptoms. When crewmembers floated into unfamiliar body orientations in the cabin, inherent ambiguities in static visual orientation cues sometimes produced spatial reorientation episodes which were also provocative. Symptoms largely resembled those of other forms of prolonged motion sickness, superimposed upon other symptoms attributable to fluid shift. All 4 eventually used anti-motion sickness drugs. When they did, vomiting frequency was reduced. By the 4th day, symptoms subsided, and head accelerations again increased in magnitude and variability. Sickness intensity in orbit was not predicted by statistically concordant results of 6 acute preflight susceptibility tests. However, results from a longer duration preflight prism goggles test showed an apparent correlation. All subjects were asymptomatic making head movements in parabolic flight 4 days after the mission, but not 1 year later. Overall, results support the view that space sickness is a motion sickness.

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Oman, C.M., Lichtenberg, B.K., Money, K.E. et al. M.I.T./Canadian vestibular experiments on the Spacelab-1 mission: 4. Space motion sickness: symptoms, stimuli, and predictability. Exp Brain Res 64, 316–334 (1986). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00237749

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