Space missions are set to take off in the coming decades. NASA is not only planning to return to the moon with Artemis missionsBut the agency and a host of private space companies like SpaceX have their sights set I started colonizing Mars. As we enter the dawn of the new space age, there is still little we understand about the long-term effects of space travel on humans. But some new research is shedding light on how months of microgravity can affect the body – and it doesn’t look good.
in A study published Thursday in Scientific ReportsAnd the University of Calgary Researchers have discovered that astronauts who spent more than three months in space aboard the International Space Station (ISS) only partially recovered from severe bone loss. While this phenomenon occurs naturally in humans on Earth, the loss appears to be more pronounced when the body is exposed to microgravity. In fact, the study authors found that six months in space resulted in contracts Bone deterioration value.
“Understanding what happens to astronauts and how they recover is extremely rare,” Gabel, associate professor of kinesiology and lead author of the study, told me. He said in a press release. “It allows us to look at the processes that happen in the body in such a short time frame. We would have to follow someone for decades on Earth to see the same amount of bone loss.”
The issue stems from the microgravity environment in space. Weight is one of the biggest factors behind bone health. Like muscles, bones need weight and stress to maintain their strength. Without them, they weaken over time. If your body is severely underweight, this can lead to serious bone problems including OsteoporosisA disease that makes your bones so fragile that even a bout of coughing can lead to rib fractures.
It stands to reason, then, that the ISS’s microgravity environment would lead to significant bone deterioration over time. However, the study authors say that the amount of loss and recovery varies from astronaut to astronaut.
“We’ve seen astronauts who have had difficulty walking due to weakness and imbalance after returning from space flight, to others who cheerfully ride their bikes on the Johnson Space Center campus to meet us for a study visit,” said Stephen Boyd, director of the McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health and co-author of the study, in the statement. There is a very diverse set of responses among astronauts upon their return to Earth.
These findings underscore the need for research into the long-term effects of space travel on the human body—particularly as we embark on ambitious missions to colonize another planet. The study authors plan to build on the research and consider the impact of longer periods spent in space to help provide insight for future astronauts.
“In this decade, astronauts will venture into deep space, and in the centuries to come, humanity will inhabit other star systems,” Robert Thirsk, a former astronaut and chancellor of the University of Calgary, said in the statement. “Let’s now push the boundaries of space exploration back to make this vision possible.”
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