Karen Sharwood - February 05, 2002: Zero G and the ECG ... finally - Woo hoo! We finally managed to collect some meaningful (and very interesting data) on a 0G flight!!
Even though we had spent hours trying to negotiate a way for me to be allowed to join Mark on the 0G flight toady, and had finally been given permission to fly as long as we accepted all responsibility for my health condition worsening, we decided that it would probably be best that I stay on the ground. Initially I just couldnt understand why they were so concerned about mild asthma and I was really disappointed, but I realized that these doctors deal with space flight and space medicine a whole lot more often than I do and they definitely know what they are talking about, so I accepted my defeat graciously (and without any serious motion sickness either).
If Mark thought that he would be able to get BBC with all the wiring that he had on him today, he would have been right in fact we may have even been able to pick up a bit of SABC 3 for a while at certain angles. Geez, he was covered. The problem (for Mark) was that we then had to tape everything down to ensure that there was as little interference as possible with all the wires and watches etc. Ordinarily, we would have shaved Marks chest, not only to help with the contact of the ECG electrodes and the heart rate monitor, but also to save all the pain and agony of ripping off elastic strapping from chest hair. On this occasion, however, Mark declined this kind offer and we did not go this route. (Please note that Mark did have this choice - this is an NB point to remember for later). After strapping and taping up Marks entire upper body and having many a laugh thinking of Mark doing a famous Gwyneth-Paltrow-Shakespeare-in-Love unwrapping scene (hence the laugh) we were all ready. Both the Polar and the ECG were recording and were good to go.
After having decided to stay on the ground, however, it was almost not that case as I was so enthralled by what was going on inside the plane before they left that I failed to notice the door being closed and stairs being rolled away across the runway. I have to admit that I did notice that the noise of the engines had suddenly increased by a couple of decibels, but I suppose I just thought that was all part of the preparations. Anyway, managed to get out of there in time, much to the guy at the doors dismay who then had to reopen the doors and attach the stairs etc etc.
The flight apparently went very well, but of course there are always the big buts after every positive thing. This time, it was decided that Mark should do a second flight which would leave about 20 minutes after the first one had landed. Even the thought of doing all of that over again made me feel a tad queezy, and very glad that I HAD to stay on the ground. Anyway, we decided that one data set would be sufficient, so we needed to get off all of the tape and equipment. That was the fun part (well for me). Mark mentioned a couple of weeks ago that he thought all the exercises that we were doing were giving him more chest hair. Needless to say, I think we may just have to start doing a little more exercise to replace all the hair that I pulled off his chest today.
So the tension mounted as I went off to have a look at the data. Surprise!! A perfect trace with clear changes with each parabola (See attached graph - each arrow indicates each parabola). What a relief. As for the ECG data, it also recorded really well and we also managed to achieve a perfect trace using it. The problem now if course is how we are actually going to use the ECG information seeing as though it is in a completely foreign format and no-one here yet seems to understand the way in which we need it. But alas, things wouldnt be half as exciting here if it werent for these challenges! (We keep on telling ourselves that anyway). The ECG data saga continues on Thursday when Karl and I will hopefully manage to figure out a way to use as much information as we possibly can.