Astronauts: Living in Space (1 x 60′) – This programme documents what it is really like to live and work in space for months at a time, through the eyes of astronauts Rick and Koichi and their families, with additional material from Mike Hopkins and other astronauts. It includes behind-the-scenes footage from their lift-off in Baikonur, Kazakhstan – including pre-launch and launch, then their arrival on the ISS, both from Rick and Koichi’s perspective and those of their families. Viewers hear Rick and Koichi’s dreams of becoming astronauts and what it means to them to do a job which is literally out of this world.
The programme explains that the main function of the ISS is to carry out research experiments for a wide range of scientists around the world and how this fits into Rick and Koichi’s daily life. It includes day-to-day tasks which have to be approached in completely different ways such as eating, sleeping and washing. Viewers will be able to examine, in detail, the effects of microgravity on the astronauts’ bodies and how this is being tackled thanks to pioneering science and medicine. This is done by Rick and Koichi becoming human guinea pigs to help in the quest to extend the human body’s ability to spend longer periods in microgravity.
There are interviews with flight surgeon Dr Shannan Moynihan and Dr Mike Barratt to discuss how space is an alien environment for humans and there are myriad conditions to be aware of. Most notably radiation, deterioration of sight and the loss of bone density which is tackled by a treadmill and gym on the ISS – which was a massive technical challenge to ensure it doesn’t put a strain on the structure.
The psychological effects of being in space and how NASA works to support the crews and families before during and after their missions is also examined. The amount of rigour and care given is extremely impressive. We have unprecedented access to the homes of Rick and Koichi’s wives, Candi, Stephi and Mike’s wife Julie Hopkins, and will see their heart-warming conversations with their husbands. Finally we learn about returning home with a bump, via a Russian Soyuz, and how astronauts adjust back to life on Earth.
Channel: Channel 4
Producer: Arrow Media
TX: March 2014
Source: Channel 4 press release