By: Dr. Tanisha Hoover

AstronaughtAstronauts Scott Kelly & Mikhail Kolnienko completed a one year mission in a space station.  They were a part of a research study that investigated the long-term effects of time spent in space and how it affects the human mind and body.  Surprisingly, the outcome on the body was not pleasant!  Below is a brief list of the major effects on the body during their experience:

  • Difficulty Breathing: After a year of weightlessness, their lungs and chest muscles were weak from lack of use.
  • Difficulty Walking: This was due to weakened muscles due to the lack of gravity (they had to be carried from the capsule to the building once they arrived back to earth).
  • Puffy Faces: Due to edema (retention of fluid) and lack of gravity that helps usher fluids down and through the body.
  • Bone Loss & Prone to Fracture: There is a loss of 1% bone mass per month. This leads to excess calcium in the urine, which can cause kidney/bladder stones.  The result is low calcium in the blood.  (They carried the astronauts from the capsule for fear of breaking their bones!)
  • Serious Vision Impairment: Fluid collected in the astronauts’ brains putting pressure on their eyeballs, causing severe blurry vision.
  • Damage to DNA & Brain Cells: This resulted from exposure to radiation from solar flares and cosmic rays.
  • Emotional Turmoil: Not only did the astronauts miss their families and homes, but eventually they started to miss earth.  They stated it was an emotion that words could not explain.
  • Lack of fresh water supply*: Pure, fresh drinking water allows the body to run more efficiently revitalizing organs and assisting in its metabolic processes.  Without water, the body endures a whole host of problems.

*Some of the water on the space station comes from filtering and recycling urine & sweat.

There is still a lot of work to be done to prepare the human race for long-term space travel.  NASA is working diligently to make this a possibility.  To keep it in perspective,  a round trip to Mars will cost a minimum of $500,000 and will take 3 years.  This will soon be a reality but not just yet!

Reference:
National Geographic. November 2016 pg. 40’s
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