How does Space change the Human body?

How does Space change the Human body?

A lot of space missions are planned these days but the task of being an astronomer is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. Firstly, the training that is needed in order to make an actual space trip is quite tough. Once you are selected to be a part of a mission, the problems are just enhanced. The atmosphere of space is simply hostile to humans and it takes a lot out of you to explore it. That’s the reason why it is regarded as dangerous and unfriendly by many experts. Continuous exposure to radiations weakens you physically while isolation can affect you psychologically. There are numerous risks that an astronomer faces in order to travel to space.

NASA Twins’ Study will help to answer a lot of questions about the impact of space on the human body. Scott Kelly was sent to space to spend a year there while Mark Kelly, who is his identical twin brother, stayed on the Earth. A total of ten separate projects then tracked how both the brothers changed. The data collected helped researchers to deduce the health effects of long spaceflights. Some important ones are described below.

·         Physical Weakness

Skeletal Muscles form the largest organ of the body. They are responsible for all the postures and the movement of our body. Gravity provides the necessary loading conditions for some of them. When you go out into space, you are exposed to microgravity. This leads to muscle weakness. It has a two-way effect. The mass of the muscles as well as their strength is reduced. This endangers the concept of colonizing Mars as the journey to it is long and human body might face serious weakness before reaching there. According to a report, about 30% muscle strength is lost by spending 110 to 237 days in space.

·         Mental Issues

Mathias Basner of the University of Pennsylvania was conducting one of the studies on the twins. Both the brothers were asked to perform 10 cognitive tests before, during and, post flight of Scott. The aim of this process was to find out the effects on cognitive abilities of Scott. Results of initial tests before the flight were set as the benchmark. Researchers noted that there was no significant drop in Scott’s abilities while he was in space. The speed and accuracy of Scott decreased once he came back to the Earth. The reason for this is still unknown but the theory proposed for now is that adjusting to the gravity of Earth could be the source of this decrease in Scott’s mental abilities.

·         Heart Weakens

Gravity has a huge role to play in the pumping of blood while we are on Earth. This changes completely once we enter space. Firstly, the size of the heart decreases as the mass of both the ventricles is reduced. Similarly, heart rate becomes lower than normal. Blood pressure is also hampered. All these factors lead to lack of cardiac output. This is a situation where the amount of blood pumped out of a heart per minute is decreased. As the circulation of blood is directly related to our aerobic capacity, stamina falls down significantly.

·         Increase in Inflammation

Blood tests are used to measure the amounts of fats and cytokines in the blood. According to the experimental results, it was concluded that inflammation increases in space due to the presence of micro-gravity. Both lipids and cytokines are essential components of inflammation and their concentrations are quite high while you are in space. It was also observed that amount of a certain group of cytokines increases when you reach back on Earth after your spaceflight.

·         Bone Content is Lost

Gravity has a lot of role in maintaining the proper health of bones, just like muscles. In space, bones are deprived of the regular load modeling, that is responsible for keeping the balance between osteoblasts and osteoclasts. These are two different types of cells present in our bones. As the balance is altered, bone mineral density is reduced. This means that your body starts to lose parts of your skeleton. According to a research, 3.5% loss of bone occurs after 16 to 28 weeks of a space mission. As legs and pelvis bones are bearing most of your body weight, 97% of this bone mass is lost from there.

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