Astronauts still frisky, halfway done



CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP)—Their faces are puffier. Their muscles are flabbier. But Columbia’s astronauts are still feeling frisky halfway into their 14-day medical mission.

‘‘We’re having a lot of fun, getting a lot of work done,’‘ pilot Richard Searfoss said Monday.

Astronaut William McArthur Jr. said neither he, Searfoss nor Dr. David Wolf, all space rookes, have had space motion sickness. Two-thirds of all astronauts become nauseous during the first few days of flight.

‘‘We were frisky from the minute the main engines cut off,’‘ McArthur told radio interviewers.

But Searfoss reported a loss of muscle strength on a stationary cycle.

And Wolf said he could feel his body change in weightlessness: his legs got skinny and his face puffy due to the upward shift of blood and body fluids.

‘‘When I first saw myself in the mirror up here I had to take a second look to see if it was really me,’‘ Wolf said.

Columbia’s 14-day voyage is the longest shuttle flight ever planned by NASA and only the second mission dedicated to medical research.

The crew spent Monday conducting the same experiments that were performed on the same day of the first medical mission two years ago.

That 1991 flight lasted just nine days, and researchers are eager to see whether the body changes much after an additional five days in space.

Four of the astronauts had the size of their hearts measured with an echocardiograph that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce heart images.

The crew had to switch to a backup unit when the primary one failed.

Later, in a motion sickness study, the astronauts popped in special contact lenses and stared at colored dots inside a rotating dome.

Researchers hope this mission, due to end next Monday, will provide more insight into that and other space maladies.