Our bodies in space: Zero gravity weighs heavy on your health

Author: Ashley Strickland, Rachel Crane, and Claudia Morales
Published: May 20, 2016

Experts ensured that astronauts could walk on the moon and live for more than a year in the International Space Station (ISS), 220 miles above the Earth’s surface. With the goal, however, to lessen the effects of space on man’s health and performance, the Human Research Program (HRP) reanalyzed the results. They wanted to make sure man could send astronauts deeper into the solar system.

To prepare for the Mars mission, NASA is using the data from the six-month crew member rotations and Scott Kelly’s ground-breaking one-year ISS mission. They conducted such studies and observations to see the effects of space on the human body.

Dr. John Charles, Human Research Program (HRP) associate manager for international science, said body fluids shift from the lower to the upper part as soon as astronauts reach weightlessness. The organs of balance and inner ear sense at once the lack of the pull of gravity, resulting to puffy faces and thin legs called bird leg syndrome. They are less thirsty, have a dull sense of taste, and sense a stuffy nose feeling, the same as nasal allergy. In like manner, space motion sickness affected around 79 percent of astronauts who experience microgravity in the first 24 to 48 hours, causing loss of appetite, dizziness, and vomiting.

In further studies, Jennifer A. Fogarty, HRP deputy chief scientist, says that astronauts are likewise at risk of long-term body problems. These include losses in blood volume, bones, and muscle tissues; weakened immune system; cardiovascular deconditioning; change in vision acuity; and too much exposure to radiation.

The bigger problem NASA sees is the body’s need to adjust to gravity. After the six-month journey to Mars, crew members have to work right away upon landing. Although the said planet has only one-third of the gravity experienced here on Earth, it will still be a challenge to adjust after floating for one-half year.

Though NASA developed countermeasures to combat most health issues, the HRP is always researching ways for humans to thrive in the final frontier. Current remedies, results of ongoing studies, and funded proposals to solve the said health issues will serve astronauts as they explore deeper into space.

Overall, this report is interesting because it tackles man’s future in the outside world. The writing style is conversational and not overwhelming, but the authors didn’t define the medical terms well. With further research and observation, this study will aid astronauts risking their lives and health as they explore the depths of space.

Definition of Terms 

  • Microgravity (sometimes called “zero gravity”)is the condition in which people or objects appear to be weightless.
  • Cardiovascular Deconditioning – is a state in which the cardiovascular system does not work as efficiently as it can, caused by a change of environment, such as long periods of bed rest or space travel.
  • Visual Acuity – is the acuteness of the vision as determined by a comparison with the normal ability to define certain letters at a given distance, usually 20 feet (6 meters).

Source: http://edition.cnn.com/2016/05/20/health/your-body-in-space/index.html



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