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In Space, No One Can Hear You Say "Ahhhh"

March 5, 2020
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Patricia Cowings
Patricia Cowings. Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Archives

Patricia Cowings became the first American woman to receive scientist astronaut training in 1978. While she never went to space, Cowings designed a program to help astronauts combat space sickness.

Cowings investigated the psycho-physiological and biological problems experienced by astronauts in space in the early 1980s. Because astronaut training time is precious, she had to come up with a program that would take astronauts no longer than six hours to learn. She designed 12 half-hour sessions to train them to control their bodily responses and regulate as many as 26 autonomic functions, such as heart rate and respiration, through biofeedback.

As a research psychologist at NASA Ames Research Center, Cowings has trained space shuttle astronauts, Russian space station cosmonauts, search-and-rescue pilots and military personnel.

This photo of Cowings is part of the National Air and Space Museum Archives.