Soyuz TMA-19M launch. Credits: ESA-S. Corvaja

Soyuz TMA-19M launch. Credits: ESA-S. Corvaja

ESA astronaut Tim Peake has only been in space for an hour but already the science programme has started. While flying to the International Space Station he will fill in questionnaires on any headaches he might experience.

Headaches can be a common astronaut complaint during spaceflight – especially during the first week. This is not surprising as an astronaut’s brain has a lot to cope with. The stress of launch, the disorientation of floating in weightlessness and blood that normally sinks towards your feet on Earth goes towards the head in space.

Preliminary studies into astronaut headaches have been done before but this is the first in-depth statistical investigation into headaches.

The Space Headaches experiment will improve our understanding of headaches which will help develop ways to alleviate their symptoms and improve the well-being of astronauts in orbit in and consequently their performance.

Great infographic from NASA

Great infographic from NASA. Click to see it move!

Experiment setup

24 astronauts should take part in the Space Headaches experiment with Tim coming in halfway in the data-collection phase.

The questionnaire is two pages long and takes five minutes to fill in. It is multiple choice with ‘yes/no’ or ‘sliding scale’ answers.

During their first week of a mission, astronauts fill in the questionnaire every day and weekly afterwards until the end of their spaceflight.

The questionnaire is a electronic document that is completed on a Station laptop. In the Soyuz spacecraft there is no laptop, so the researchers included paper printouts that Tim will complete with a pencil. Once at the International Space Station he will photograph the first paper questionnaires and send the digital file to the researchers on Earth.