HOUSTON – An astronaut collapsed twice Friday, a day after she returned to Earth in the shuttle Atlantis, and officials attributed her wobbles to the adjustment from 12 days at zero gravity.
Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper left the welcome-home ceremony at the hangar at Ellington Field but was not taken to a hospital. Officials said she was doing fine.
Piper, the fifth of the six astronauts to speak, appeared to be confused before her legs buckled during her address. NASA officials and crew members braced her and lowered her to the ground. She stood up again, and the crowd applauded.
“Boy, if that’s not a little embarrassing,” she said.
After speaking for another half-minute or so, she again appeared confused and gripped the podium. Crew members stepped to her side and lowered her to the floor.
Two NASA officials then helped her leave through a side door, and she was allowed to return home.
The Atlantis crew returned Thursday. They performed three grueling spacewalks to hook up a 171/2-ton addition, which included a giant set of electricity-producing solar panels.
Piper, 43, of St. Paul, Minn., is a commander in the Navy and was a mission specialist and cosmic electrician aboard the shuttle. She carried out two of the spacewalks, joining an elite club of only six other U.S. women and one Russian woman who have made spacewalks.