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The Vintage Space video Eleven Deaf Men Helped NASA Leave Earth describes a number of different NASA experiments done on human subjects who had damaged vestibular systems due to childhood illness.

The experiments described would have been a horrible experience for those with functioning semicircular canals (e.g. living in a room with spinning walls for eleven days, boat ride on choppy seas so bad most control subjects vomited) but the subjects were "completely immune to motion sickness".

During a crewed spaceflight mission from launch to landing, are there any useful functions served by the vestibular system? Do astronauts use this sense in any way? Does it have any redeeming qualities during a mission?


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    $\begingroup$ I bet the sense of acceleration the vestibular system can provide helps astronauts move in zero g. $\endgroup$ – CourageousPotato May 17 at 8:12
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    $\begingroup$ It was useful flying the shuttle down. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble May 17 at 11:33
  • $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble I'm looking forward to hearing more about that! It's important to remember that being strapped in a capsule is not the only way people launched and landed. $\endgroup$ – uhoh May 17 at 11:36
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh I'm guessing that with the shuttle, it's valuable to feel the acceleration you're inducing as you move the controls. I've flown a plane once, and feeling the acceleration was a natural part of the piloting process. A related question would be to investigate whether anyone has piloted an aircraft with a damaged vestibular system. It's an interesting question. I would guess that it's an important part of moving in 0-g. However, as people with a damaged vestibular system have adapted to Earth, I'm sure that they could adapt to 0-g as well and maneuver themselves without too much challenge. $\endgroup$ – Ranga Rutiser Sundar May 17 at 15:30
  • $\begingroup$ @RangaRutiserSundar these are interesting points! There is an Aviation SE site, perhaps it's been asked there already. $\endgroup$ – uhoh May 17 at 15:35

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