Originally created 07/09/98

Mir astronaut still feeling the aches and pains of returning to Earth

SPACE CENTER, Houston -- Nearly a month after Andrew Thomas completed a 130-day stay aboard Mir and returned to Earth, his neck aches, his shoulders hurt and his heels are tender.

But Thomas said the aches and pains are well worth being back home.

"I've been having a wonderful time. I have a lot more freedom than I've enjoyed for a long time," he said Wednesday.

The 46-year-old Australian-born engineer was the last of seven Americans to live aboard the Russian space station. He returned to Earth on June 12.

Long stays in zero gravity weaken astronauts' muscles, bones and immune systems. It takes weeks for their bodies to recover fully.

"I still have a few aches and pains, particularly in my neck of having to support my head," Thomas said. "My shoulders, too, are a little bit sore because of having to hold up my arms."

Even his heels hurt, keeping him from standing in one spot for too long.

Thomas is on a strict workout schedule as part of his rehabilitation.

When he is not running or lifting weights, Thomas is spending most of his time with friends and at the home he bought just before he began training for Mir.

"It's really nice to be getting back into it and discovering things I'd forgotten about and just enjoying all the creature comforts in day-to-day living here," he said.


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