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Heather Archuletta @Pillownaut
, 20 tweets, 14 min read Read on Twitter
READY TO BRAVE THE SMOKE! I'm on my way to a bone check today. This DEXA scan will determine if I lost bone mass over time, following #NASA spaceflight simulations. #PillownautTale

*** THREAD *** In NASA facility, Galveston Island - Isokinetics LabFARU - Flight Analogs Research Unit
For my newer followers, my "pillownaut" handle is a reference to the medical programs at Johnson Space Center 2008-2014. In #NASA quarantine, one of the few comforts flight analogs could have during simulations was a comfy pillow, LOL...! #PillownautTale NASA Quarantine FARU (Flight Analog Research Unit)
I did a 70+ day Micro-gravity study (where I spent 54 days at a head-down tilt) and a 21-day Lunar Gravity study -- both intended to give #NASA data on how to keep astronauts more healthy by developing countermeasures to weightlessess. #PillownautTale NASA Centrifuge testing
When we leave the Earth gravity under which we evolved, we suffer heart enlargement, muscle atrophy, bone density de-mineralization, plasma volume drops, vestibular disturbance (loss of balance), and other superfun things that spell death on Mars. #PillownautTale
Analog screening was CRAZY-INTENSE. #PillownautTale I passed the Class IV astronaut flight physical at #NASA #JSC for 3 consecutive years:… 16,000+ people applied in that timeframe. 32 were accepted. (I was #18 & the only Trekkie, haha). With Devin - NASA quarantine
Once you get over the elation of being accepted into the #NASA program, you find their goal in life is to make you as miserable as possible with tests: running & cycling to exhaustion, 70 blood draws from hands, arms, & feet, etc. #PillownautTale
This is the complete list of tests and protocols spaceflight analogs endure:… After I started publishing these, program applications actually went down for awhile, before upticking each time I was interviewed on the news. #PillownautTale
Daily protocols are also very strict. Must eat all measured food prepared for you. No salt, sugar, alcohol, or caffeine. Measured water quota. No direct sunlight. And no WALKING once your simulation begins.… #PillownautTale
When you're done, much like when astronauts come home from orbit, you cannot walk, balance, or drive a car. Leaving gravity takes adjustment... but returning to gravity is sheer hell. Nausea accompanies every stage, coming and going. #PillownautTale First getting out of my wheelchairMarcus in his wheelchairLearning to walk again!
It's not all terrible, however. Participants get to undergo parts of astronaut training, see an incredible part of #NASA science efforts, and engage in creative pursuits during downtime. Here I am painting the prominent #ISS partners. #PillownautTale Painting a ceiling tileWe didn't go by names for medical privacy -- that was my study number
I joked that I was a "Pillow Astronaut." #PillownautTale That's what I named our MySpace(!) page. But that moniker was too long for Blogspot's naming field at the time. I shortened it to "Pillownaut" & also bought that web domain for all my materials:
News outlets happened across my blog, and I wound up on Wired, PopSci, Fox 26 Houston, Fox & Friends, SkyNews, NBC, MoonDaily, Universe Today, NPR, Forbes, etc. Wow. What a crazy time.… #PillownautTale
Sometimes, I miss all the press attention and requests for print, radio, & TV interviews. Most days, I don't miss it, though. I was sometimes mis-quoted, and continually frustrated at how many thought it was a "sleep study." IT WAS UNBELIEVABLY HARD WORK. #PillownautTale ERGO Cycle - OMG death machine, LOLTesting heart function during exertion
Not long after, #NASA & #ESA began to refer to all astronaut analogs as "pillownauts" in general. Press also used the term in articles long after I left the program. #PillownautTale 10 YEARS LATER, THE TERM I [accidentally] COINED IS STILL BEING USED!…
I subsequently spent years recruiting for the programs, because #NASA needs way way way more data (particularly on women) before there's a hint of a chance that we'll survive long-duration missions, or on Mars. Because space travel sucks: #PillownautTale
Back then, I signed a stack of papers nearly up to my waist about how I understood that I might suffer lifelong complications to my muscles, brain, bones, or eyesight by doing these simulations. Astronauts regularly risk all these things to fly their missions. #PillownautTale
At the time, I was in elite shape as a runner, skater, soccer player. It was easy to feel robust, brag about passing the same physical astronauts must, & sign on the dotted line. I knew what I was doing. But I'm also now forced to think of it in a different way. #PillownautTale
Today, I'm 10 years older. This afternoon, I'll be getting medical scans that will tell me: Did this screw up my body? Will my 'Golden Years' be more difficult? Will I need healthcare I could have avoided by not doing spaceflight simulations? #PillownautTale
Don't get me wrong. I knew the risks. I was willing to take them in order to add to #NASA data banks. If we ever set boots on Mars, I'll be able to say: "I was a small part of that. I contributed." Today, I'll find out if that contribution cost me. Wish me luck! #PillownautTale Face mask for smoke from the CA Fires. Heading to my bone scan.
END OF DAY UPDATE. Back at home now. I had decided not to live-tweet today's #NASA tests; in case I got bad news, I wanted to process it privately. But everything was great. Not just good... GREAT! Will update my #PillownautTale blog now. Thanks to all for the good wishes! 😃🖖🏾
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