Liberal Arts Blog — Space IV: What Space Travel Does to the Human Body

Liberal Arts Blog — Wednesday is the Joy of Science, Engineering, and Technology Day

Today’s Topic — Space IV: What Space Travel Does to the Human Body (not good)

Wouldn’t it be cool to take a trip to Mars? Maybe not. I usually find trips to DC museums to be an uplifting, exhilarating experience. Not so the time I came upon the exhibit on what space travel does to the human body. Yikes! This post is not for the squeamish. Muscle atrophy and skeletal deterioration are just the tips of the iceberg. After five months in space you can expect to lose 40% of your muscle mass. “The muscle loss is the equivalent of a 20-year-old turning into a 60-year-old over a period of three months,” Then there is the slowing of the cardiovascular system, the disruption to the immune system, Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

RIDGE: Radiation, Isolation, Distance, Gravity, Environment

1. Radiation — risks include cancer, degenerative diseases, changes in the nervous system. Counter measures include radiation shielding, medicines.

2. Isolation — risks include sleep problems, fatigue, mood and behavioral changes. Counter measures include “gardening and journaling, virtual reality sessions, and “light technologies.”

3. Distance — “ineffective medication, food storage challenges, lack of medical care.” Fixes: “virtual assistants, clinical decision support tools.”

NB: Gravity — reduced muscle mass, bone loss, fluid shifts, changes in sensory-motor skills. Solutions: exercise, medication, pressure devices.

Environment — altered immune system, celestial dust exposure, temperature changes, exposure to contaminants. Counter measures: routine cleaning and air filter maintenance, immunizations, thermal control systems.”

MARS IS WAY, WAY FARTHER AWAY THAN THE SPACE STATION AND THE MOON

1. The space station is 240 miles from earth, the moon 186,000 miles, Mars is 180 million miles. Got that?

2. “With a communication delay of up to 20 minutes one-way while on Mars, astronauts must be able to solve problems and identify solutions as a team without help from NASA’s mission control.”

3. “The types of food and medicine to be packed for a multi-year trip without access to a grocery store or pharmacy are also important to consider. Unlike space station crews, which regularly receive supplies from cargo flights from Earth, astronauts going to Mars will have to bring all of the food, equipment, and medical supplies they need.”

NB: Elon Musk says he could be sending a crewed mission to Mars as early as 2024. Really? Experts? Estimated time to reach Mars? Seven months?

TWO MONTHS AFTER RETURNING TO EARTH, KELLY’S FEET STILL HURT

1. “When you return from space, your body will have to readjust to gravity. When Scott Kelly first returned, he stumbled and had to relearn how to walk.”

2. “According to the Verge, this is because zero gravity messes with our sense of orientation and throws off our vestibular system (the balance sensors inside our ears).” (see last link below)

3. “Two months after landing back on Earth, Kelly’s feet still hurt.”

NB: “It turned out that 93 percent of Scott’s genes returned to normal after landing, but according to NASA’s researchers, the remaining seven percent could indicate “longer term changes in genes related to his immune system, DNA repair, bone formation networks, hypoxia (low blood oxygen), and hypercapnia (excessive carbon dioxide in the blood).”

https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/thumbnails/image/bis_final_main.png

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effect_of_spaceflight_on_the_human_body

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISS_year-long_mission

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_and_sociological_effects_of_spaceflight

https://www.space.com/how-space-affects-human-body-29-studies

https://astronomy.com/news/2018/02/how-does-space-change-the-human-body

https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/22527246

https://www.space.com/spacex-launch-astronauts-mars-2024

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_mission_to_Mars

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceX_Mars_program

How long does it take to travel to Mars? — A Mission to Mars — Mars One

https://www.space.com/24701-how-long-does-it-take-to-get-to-mars.html

https://now.northropgrumman.com/effects-of-space-travel-on-the-human-body-before-during-and-after/

A LINK TO THE LAST THREE YEARS OF POSTS ORGANIZED BY THEME:

PDF with headlines — Google Drive

YOUR TURN

Please share the coolest thing you learned this week related to science, engineering, or technology. Or, even better, the coolest or most important thing you learned in your life related to science and engineering.

This is your chance to make someone else’s day. Or to cement in your mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply about something dear to your heart. Continuity is key to depth of thought.