Astronaut Chris Hadfield sore but in good spirits as he readjusts to gravity

16 May 2013

"How does the body control blood pressure? Scarecrow on a tilt table to measure how," astronaut Chris Hadfield tweeted along with this photo on his Twitter account, @Cmdr_Hadfield

Astronaut Chris Hadfield says he feels like an “old man” and has been bumping into corners after being weightless for five months aboard the International Space Station. The Canadian gave his first news conference today after his return to Earth early Tuesday morning (Irish time).

“My neck is sore and my back is sore,” Hadfield told a news conference from Houston, Texas, where he is undergoing medical tests and physiotherapy after his stint aboard the orbiting outpost.

He said he feels like he played a hard game of rugby or full-contact hockey yesterday.

Hadfield, who had served as commander of the International Space Station, also mentioned feeling dizzy and like he’s walking on hot coals because there are no callouses on his feet.

Raffi Kuyumjian, the Canada Space Agency’s chief medical officer and Hadfield’s flight surgeon, said Hadfield is dealing with temporary problems as he readjusts to gravity. They include shuffling his feet when he walks, soreness in his back, difficulty walking around corners and sometimes even bumping into corners.

In a statement, Kuyumjian said Hadfield feels dizzy and finds it challenging to walk up or down stairs. Also, his manual dexterity is a bit off.

Hadfield has also lost some bone density in his hips and back, Kuyumjian said, since those bones lost calcium in weightlessness.

“Astronauts typically lose 1pc of bone density per month while in zero gravity. This is similar, but not as severe, as the osteoporosis that affects the elderly,” said Kuyumjian, who added that Hadfield will likely recover most of that bone density loss in about a year.

Although Hadfield feels like an “old man”, he is in good spirits and is looking forward to the “rejuvenation” process, Kuyumjian said.

While aboard the International Space Station, Hadfield conducted scientific experiments and delighted his social media followers with photos and videos.

Tina Costanza was a journalist and sub-editor at Silicon Republic