Monday a Astronaut capsule that resembles a giant juicer splashed in the Atlantic Ocean, bringing its crew of four back under the influence of Earth’s gravity. These astronauts spent six months on the International Space Station, and so the gravity now pulling at their bodies will feel familiar, but strange.
This team, called SpaceX Crew-2, has spent much of the last semester in orbit doing science work in space, like testing “tissue chips”, small-scale analogs of human organs. But they also spent hours like gym rats: six days a week they had a 2.5-hour block of exercise to reduce the damage that life in space can do to the body. Space, as they say, is hard. But it’s especially hard on humans. Radiation, the absence of gravity and life in confined spaces takes its toll.
“NASA has always been concerned about the effects of spaceflight on the human body, since the very first space missions,” said Michael Stenger, elements scientist for Human Health Countermeasures, the agency’s arm dedicated to understanding how flight takes place. spatial affect physiology and mitigate these effects. One big problem is that living in orbit is physiologically similar to bed rest, even if you are experimenting all day. âBeing in space is a bit like lying around doing nothing,â he says.
When you don’t need to counter gravity, your muscles and bones lose strength, as these parts of the anatomy adhere to a sort of âuse it or lose itâ philosophy. Muscles can atrophy, the same way they would if an astronaut were lying on the couch playing Publication date all day. Bones can lose mass: they form and break down depending on the forces they undergo on a daily basis, both from gravity and from the use of muscles. After six months in space, the proximal femoral bone in the leg can lose about 10 percent of its mass, requiring years of ground recovery.
Space is also difficult for the cardiovascular system, explains Stenger: âYour heart no longer has to pump so hard to maintain blood pressure, so your heart weakens. During Astronaut Scott Kelly’s year in space, his heart shrank by more than a quarter, adjusting to its new conditions. Back under the influence of gravity, the heart can return to normal, apparently without long-term damage.
Scientists don’t quite understand why, but astronauts’ spines also lengthen in space and gain a few inches in height. Travelers shrink to their normal size on Earth, but after flight astronauts have a higher risk of herniated discs, which can be associated with these spinal shifts. In addition, their combinations and equipment must be designed for their dimensions – and if those dimensions change, the design becomes complicated, especially for a longer trip.
To keep astronauts’ bowels fit for their tasks in space and healthy once back on Earth, Human Health Countermeasures tried to correct these physiological errors, in part with gym equipment designed for space. The advanced resistive exercise machine is sort of a spatial Bowflex: it uses vacuum cylinders to create a few hundred pounds of resistance, and microgravity athletes can reconfigure it to do deadlifts, squats, or presses. lying down for two hours, including the time spent. takes to reconfigure the device and do a little recovery. The ISS is also equipped with a treadmill and a bicycle machine, which astronauts use for 30 minutes of interval training.