NASA Astronauts On Space Station Suffer Horrific Bone Loss, Study Finds

NASA Astronauts On Space Station Suffer Horrific Bone Loss, Study Finds

Space missions are expected to take off in the coming decades. Not only is NASA planning to return to the Moon with the Artemis missions, but the agency and a host of private space companies like SpaceX have their sights set on colonizing Mars. As we enter the dawn of a new space age, we still understand little about the impacts of long-term space travel on humans. But new research sheds light on how months of microgravity affect the body — and it doesn’t look good.

In a study published Thursday in Scientific reports, University of Calgary Researchers have found that astronauts who spent more than three months in space aboard the International Space Station (ISS) only partially recovered from severe bone loss. While the phenomenon occurs naturally in humans on Earth, the loss appears to be greater when the body is exposed to microgravity. In fact, the study authors found that six months in space resulted in decades bone deterioration value.

“Understanding what happens to astronauts and how they recover is incredibly rare,” said Leigh Gabel, assistant professor of kinesiology and lead author of the study, in a press release. “It allows us to look at the processes taking place in the body in such a short time. You would have to follow someone for decades on Earth to see the same amount of bone loss.

The problem stems from the microgravity environment of space. One of the most important factors in bone health is weight. Like muscles, bones need weight and stressors to maintain their strength. Without them, they weaken over time. If your body is too skinny, it can lead to serious bone problems, including osteoporosis, a disease that makes your bones so fragile that even a coughing fit can lead to broken ribs.

So it makes sense that the microgravity environment of the ISS would lead to significant bone deterioration over time. However, the study authors say the amount of loss and recovery varies from astronaut to astronaut.

“We have seen astronauts who struggled to walk due to weakness and lack of balance after returning from spaceflight, others who happily cycled around the Johnson Space Center campus to meet us for a study visit. There is a wide variety of responses among astronauts when they return to Earth,” Steven Boyd, director of the McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health and co-author of the study, said in the release. .

These findings highlight the need for research into the effects of long-term space travel on the human body, especially as we are about to embark on ambitious off-planet colonization missions. The study authors plan to build on the research and examine the impact of even longer times spent in space to help provide information to future astronauts.

“Astronauts will venture into deep space this decade, and in the centuries to come, humanity will populate other star systems,” Rober Thirsk, former astronaut and UCalgary chancellor, said in the statement. “Let us now push the boundaries of space exploration to make this vision possible.”

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