We have been living in a world of microgravity for ages, and it wouldn’t have been possible to explore the vacuum of outer space without space travel and space tourism. However, spending time in space can significantly impact the human body.
While hovering 250 miles far away above the Earth, most astronauts spend six months in such a vacuum environment on the ISS or the International Space Station. However, the Russian Federal Space Agency and NASA had sent three astronauts on a space mission on the ISS for a year.
This is a big step for our blue planet, as studying these astronauts would better understand the impacts and consequences of spending a prolonged time in space.
For instance, it takes about six months each way to complete the journey to Mars. So, the study will help us determine what could happen if space tourism becomes a reality for visiting Mars.
However, scientists have some explanations on how a 6-month stay in space can affect the human body. All these explanations are mentioned in a summarized and organized way below.
The effect of space on human body
The space environment, particularly the harsh reality of space radiation exposure, poses significant challenges for astronauts living in outer space, such as those aboard the International Space Station.
Prolonged exposure to the space radiation environment can have drastic effects on the human upper body, which is just one of many factors that need to be considered for future deep space missions.
This is especially true when we talk about potential journeys to Mars, as it would mean humans spending an extended amount of time exposed to space radiation, which is far more intense than what we experience here on Earth. Understanding these impacts is crucial to enabling safer, longer missions to the outer reaches of our solar system in the future.
Now, let’s dig deeper into some of the impacts that space radiation can have on astronauts, and why it’s important to understand them:
It straightens out your spine
According to space.com, astronauts grow about 3% taller when they spend time in space. It means that if the astronaut’s height is 6-foot, they can develop an extra two inches in space.
The growth pump occurs due to microgravity as it enables the mushy spinal discs to contract and expand – similar to alleviating pressure on a spring. After getting back to Earth, the space explorer usually takes some time to get back to their normal height.
Your muscle mass turns into marmalade
In a weightless environment, the role of your muscle becomes insignificant for aiding support. After entering space, your muscles will instantly start to shrink and shed the excess tissue. It’s one of the crucial reasons why exercise is essential on the ISS. It helps space travelers to maintain their muscle mass, which will be required when they come back to Earth.
The space tourism industry says that if a person spends time in space, they will have to exercise for two hours a day. These exercises may include ‘weight lifting’ with the help of an advanced resistance machine. That’s because, in zero gravity, the free weight will weigh nothing.
It turns your face swollen
The human body is mainly composed of liquid. These liquids on our body are pulled down by the Earth’s gravity. However, the liquid gets more evenly distributed in and around your body in a zero-gravity environment.
This is why spending time in space makes your face look swollen than usual while the legs appear to be thinner than average. However, astronauts and other space travelers usually get rid of some of this puffiness when their body starts to adjust with the gravitational change.
It dwindles your bone density
In space tourism and scientific space exploration, travelers need to exercise regularly. If not, they will lose about 1% of their bone density in a month. This causes a severe physiological impact on their body when they return to Earth as their bones become more likely to break, just like in the case of osteoporosis.
This effect can be lessened with a good nutritious diet and proper exercise. It becomes especially significant for space travelers who plan to spend an entire year in space.
It results in vision problems
According to a NASA study, an eye examination was done on 27 astronauts who returned to Earth after spending an average of 108 days on the ISS. The study concluded that most of these astronauts were experiencing vision abnormalities after coming back from space.
After an MRI scan, NASA found that nine of these astronauts were experiencing drenching around the optic nerves while six of them had physically flattened eyeballs in the back. This is undoubtedly a concerning factor for the space tourism industry, but none of them reported to experience some significant eyesight issues. Now, more comprehensive research and follow-up studies will determine better results.
It affects your immune system
According to a 2014 study, spending time in space can weaken your immune system. In a statement, the NASA biological studies and immunology expert – Brian Crucian said that “things like isolation, altered sleep cycles, microgravity, stress, microbes, and radiation can impact a space traveler’s immune system.” “If this condition continues for a prolonged space exploration mission, it could possibly trigger the risk of autoimmune issues, hypersensitivity, or infection for the crew members.”
It means that someone who plans to spend more than half a year in space will be more likely to fall sick. The study also implies that old, dormant viruses like chickenpox can resurrect, even though there’s no sign of such risk factors among the astronauts living in space.
However, the immune cells acquired from the body of astronauts when they returned to Earth were more aggressive than depressed, which proves why some of them undergo allergic reactions and rashes in space.
It disrupts your sleep cycle
Every night, space travelers need to tie themselves into a sleeping bag. Their arms float up once they fall asleep while their heads roll forward due to microgravity. This weird sleeping posture is challenging to get habituated with.
However, several other disturbances make it difficult for space travelers to get quality sleep. For instance, your sleep will be disrupted in space when the sheer flashes of light illuminate the space station after it gets shot by the streams of cosmic rays each time.
For shutting some of that light, the space tourism industry has adopted the idea of NASA to introduce sleeping pods for space travelers. Although space travelers should get about eight and a half hours of sleep, studies still show that they manage to sleep for only six hours in space.
It affects your sense of movement and coordination
After spending around six months or more in a microgravity environment, it becomes a real struggle for space explorers after returning to Earth. They lose their sense of movement (up and down) while spending time in space due to the vestibular system in a weightless environment.
Although your body will recalibrate after returning to Earth, their feet movement will tend to be a little shaky at first.
It affects your sensation
In space, the pressure experiences changes, and the fluids start to shift around the body. The same effect that turns a space traveler’s face swollen or puffy also makes them feel full or congested.
Similar to having an allergy or cold, your stuffy nose will undoubtedly lessen your sensation of smell and, thus, your sense of taste. According to several astronauts, food and beverage flavors become dull and pale in a microgravity environment. Hence, you will crave extra spicy and tasty foods in space.
Risk of exposure to harmful cosmic radiaton
If you have seen “The Fantastic Four” and wonder that cosmic radiation can give you superpowers, then you’re entirely wrong.
A single dose of cosmic radiation can tear and pass through your very DNA, resulting in severe damage and rise to cataracts, cancer, or other diseases. Earth’s atmosphere acts as a protective barrier that shields humankind from 99% of cosmic radiation. However, space travelers lack this atmospheric protection in space. According to the European Space Agency, the risk of cosmic radiation increases for space explorers by the rate of 30%.
To measure the radiation they are exposed to, astronauts use dosimeters. This cosmic radiation exposure is a crucial factor in deciding the career span of an astronaut. Once they reach the specified amount of exposure, they can’t revisit space. This same concept applies to every space enthusiast who plans to enjoy the benefits of space tourism.
How does the International Space Station treat space travel and radiation exposure?
The International Space Station (ISS) is continuously monitored for radiation levels. According to a report released by the National Academy of Sciences, the Space Station maintains an average dosage of about 0.2 mSv per day, which is roughly equal to one-third of what someone on Earth would get in a year.
To protect astronauts from high doses of radiation, the ISS has a system of shields that can protect them from any potential radiation exposure. By shielding astronauts and avoiding long-term space trips, the Space Station is able to ensure very low doses for its inhabitants.
In addition, all missions are carefully planned to minimize radiation exposure. This includes taking into account solar storms and other high radiation events that may occur during a mission. Astronauts are trained to take precautions such as taking shelter and wearing protective gear when radiation levels peak to ensure their safety.
All of these efforts by the Space Station have made it possible for astronauts to remain in space longer without any health risks. This has enabled us to learn more about our universe and explore the possibilities of space travel on a deeper level. The ISS is also a stepping stone for space tourism, allowing people to experience outer space without compromising their safety.
Space exploration is an exciting opportunity that has come with its own set of challenges. These issues have been addressed by the ISS and other Space Station organizations working to make sure that astronauts remain safe while in space. With proper precautionary measures and training, anyone can enjoy the wonders of space without worrying about the health risks. This is a great step towards making space tourism more accessible to everyone.
These steps are just the start, however, and there is much more we can do to minimize the risks associated with space travel. As space exploration advances, so does our understanding of the potential dangers that come with it. Through research and technological development, the risks associated with space travel can be further reduced, ensuring a safe and enjoyable journey for everyone.
Investigating the effects of long-term space travel on human health
Throughout the history of space exploration, NASA scientists and other prominent space agencies have prioritized understanding the impacts of long-term space exposure on human health. Artificial gravity experiments and studies focusing on bone mass loss have played a key role in this research.
One of the primary methods for studying space’s effects on human physiology involves bed rest studies. Mimicking the weightless conditions of space, these studies have shown that prolonged bed rest can lead to significant decreases in bone mass, a challenge well-recognized by fellow astronauts following extended stays in space.
Animal experiments, too, have provided valuable insights into potential health issues related to space travel. For instance, studies on mice have revealed that prolonged exposure to cosmic rays can cause serious damage to the nervous system—a likely threat to human health in the long-term.
Humans evolved under the Earth’s gravity, and space’s weightless environment presents a unique challenge to human adaptation. NASA’s use of countermeasures has proven somewhat effective in tackling these challenges. These include exercise regimens to mitigate bone and muscle loss and the development of advanced shielding to protect astronauts from cosmic rays.
Future missions, such as a return to the lunar surface, will require further understanding and mitigation of these health risks. By continuing to delve into these issues, we can better prepare our astronauts for the physiological demands of space travel, advancing the field of space exploration for the benefit of all.
The challenges of human spaceflight and space sickness
One major concern for manned spaceflight, especially for long-duration spaceflight such as Mars missions, is space sickness. Extended periods in the low Earth orbit, outside Earth’s magnetic field, can lead to a variety of health effects due to long-term exposure to microgravity and cosmic radiation.
Space Physiology and Psychology
Space physiology and space medicine studies how the body reacts to the extreme environments of space. For example, in the absence of Earth’s atmospheric pressure, body fluids can boil at body temperature. This is one reason astronauts must wear pressurized suits.
On the other hand, space psychology focuses on the psychological impacts of living in space for prolonged periods. Isolation, confinement, and the drastic change in lifestyle can cause stress and lead to mental health issues.
Extended period in Space and blood flow
A long period in outer space can also affect blood volume and flow. In the microgravity environment, blood flow is not pulled to the lower body as it is on Earth. This can result in fluid shifts leading to space flight-associated neuro-ocular syndrome, one example of how space flight can impact human health.
Facing the extreme environments of Space
The extreme environments of space pose a unique set of challenges. Beyond the safety measures provided by the spaceship, astronauts must be prepared to face potential emergencies such as exposure to vacuum or high levels of radiation.
Understanding these risks and developing appropriate countermeasures is crucial for the future of deeep space travel. As we venture further into space, the health and safety of our astronauts continue to be of paramount importance.
Final words – what happens to the human body in space?
The physiological impacts on the human body must be considered while emphasizing space tourism and space colonization efforts. In the future, space tourism will need humans to endure a long time in space.
So, with a better understanding of these physical impacts, the space tourism industry can develop better solutions to ensure the utmost safety and health of every space travel enthusiast.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are 5 negative effects of space travel on the human body?
Space travel can have several negative effects on the human body, including bone loss, muscle atrophy, vision impairment, increased exposure to harmful radiation, and psychological effects due to isolation and confinement.
What happens to a human body in space without a spacesuit?
Without a spacesuit, a human body in space would be exposed to a vacuum. This could cause the body to decompress, causing fluids in the body to boil at normal body temperature. Additionally, without the protection of a spacesuit, one would be subjected to extreme temperatures and lethal doses of solar radiation.
What happens to your body when you fall from space?
When falling from space towards Earth, the body would initially experience weightlessness. As the body enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it would start to heat up and possibly burn up due to the friction with air molecules.
What are the three effects living in space has on the human body?
Living in space can cause several effects on the human body. Three of these effects include: bone and muscle loss due to the lack of gravity, a weakening of immune systems, and possible vision impairment due to increased intracranial pressure.
How does space affect your mental health?
The isolation and confinement experienced during space missions can lead to psychological stress and mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and cognitive changes. Astronauts are trained to manage these challenges, but research is ongoing to understand and mitigate these risks.
What can space do to your brain?
Studies suggest that the microgravity environment of space can affect the human brain in several ways, including changes in brain structure, motor control, and cognitive function. It can also cause a condition known as “space fog,” where astronauts experience a decline in mental acuity.
What happens to your body in space without a suit?
Exposure to space without a suit would cause immediate harm. The vacuum of space would cause the body to decompress and the fluids in your body would begin to boil at normal body temperature. Additionally, you would be exposed to severe temperature extremes and lethal doses of solar radiation.
Does space affect your skin?
Yes, space can have various effects on the skin. The microgravity environment can cause changes in skin sensitivity. Prolonged exposure to space radiation can also increase the risk of skin cancer and cause skin damage.
How does space make you feel?
The feeling of being in space can vary among astronauts. Some report feelings of awe and fascination, while others may experience disorientation or discomfort due to the microgravity environment. The psychological effects of isolation and confinement may also impact an individual’s emotional state.