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Deutsches Technikmuseum - August

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The Websites of the donation Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin at a glance:

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The donation contains six locations:

Exhibit of the Month August 2014

Photo: The helmet is built as an open box, with struts, rectangular and made of metal. The camera and its wiring is in front of the left eye. The apparatus, which irritates the right inner ear, looks like a bicycle bell.

The instrument helmet - even in space a not very comfortable headgear © SDTB / C. Kirchner

"1 ES 201" - instrument helmet for examining the human balance system, mid 1980s

Beginning with its maiden flight in 1981, the reusable American Space Shuttle made regular excursions into near-earth space. The space laboratory "Spacelab", which was developed under German leadership, was on board for many of these missions.

This instrument helmet was put to use on a number of those flights.

The effects of weightlessness on the human organism are often studied during manned space flights, with particular reference to what impact it has on the functioning of the balance and orientation systems.

The interplay between the eye and the organ of balance - in space and on earth

On earth, spatial orientation is the result of the interplay of one’s eyes with the organ of equilibrium, which reacts to changes in gravitational forces. In this way we always know exactly where upwards and downwards are. In conditions of weightlessness the organ of balance, which is located in the inner ear, undergoes changes to its sensory faculty. This change results in the loss of our ability to know exactly where upwards and downwards are.

Photo: Look into the space laboratory: An astronaut is sitting on a folded-up bed and sets the instrument helmet on, a second one helps him.

The instrument helmet in action during the D1-"Spacelab" mission aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger, 1985 © DLR

In the 1980s, researchers at the Berlin Charité developed an experiment in which the interplay between the eye and the organ of balance could be examined in the "Spacelab". For this purpose, the instrument helmet displayed here was worn by an astronaut as he moved throughout the space laboratory under conditions of weightlessness.

The camera attached to the front of the helmet filmed the movements of his eyes in the process. An aperture attached to the side of the helmet stimulated his inner ear.

This experiment was repeated on earth both before and after the test person’s flight in order to obtain comparative data. The results of the experiment made a meaningful contribution to a better understanding of the functioning of the human balance system.

Donated by the Berlin Charité’s Labor für experimentelle Gleichgewichtsforschung