Reentry

“Reentry” most often evokes an image of the space shuttle flying through earth’s atmosphere, glowing hot from friction, then landing on the runway and rolling to a halt. By then, the astronauts’ job is finished. The hard part is over. Adjusting after six months in space – or even two weeks – should be a snap. But there’s more to coming home than landing on solid ground. This thesis presents the little-known story of what happens once the Space Shuttle or Soyuz capsule returns to earth. It covers physical effects on astronauts transitioning from microgravity to earth gravity, as well as psychological effects such as post-flight depression, reintegration with family, frequent travel for publicity, and getting back to normal life. In addition to reference books, articles and memoirs, this thesis draws on interviews with shuttle and space station astronauts, NASA flight surgeons, medical researchers, and psychological support personnel to describe a part of the space program the public rarely sees.

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