Habitat scene with ars as background

Your body won’t be the same again when you get to Mars, scientists say

In the next decade, in 2033, NASA and China intend to send astronauts to Mars for the first time in history. This presents a number of challenges, from logistical and technical issues to ensuring astronauts can dispose of waste and have enough food and water for the months-long transport to and from Mars.

But of course, there’s also the health and safety of the astronauts, who will spend months traveling through space, exposed to cosmic radiation and microgravity.

There are even concerns that astronauts will struggle to adjust to Mars’ gravity after months of exposure to microgravity.

Artist’s impression of Mars Habitat (NASA).

To determine if these fears are justified, a team of space medicine experts at the Australian National University (ANU) has developed a mathematical model to predict whether astronauts will be able to safely travel to Mars and perform their duties once they arrive on the Red Planet.

As with all the other preparations that astronauts need to do before they set foot on Mars, this model could be very valuable. It can also be used to assess the impact of future short- and long-term missions that take astronauts to far beyond low Earth orbit (LEO) and the Earth-Moon system.

A paper describing their mathematical model and conclusions recently appeared in npj microgravityscientific journal by nature.

The research team was led by researcher Dr Lex van Loon from the Australian National University’s School of Health and Medicine (CHM). As he and his colleagues point out in their study, the potential dangers of missions to Mars are many, but arguably the biggest threat is the time astronauts will spend in microgravity.

Combined with damaging radiation from the sun and cosmic sources, this experience will cause fundamental changes in their bodies.

According to extensive research conducted aboard the International Space Station (ISS), microgravity is known to cause loss of muscle and bone density, as well as affect organ function, vision and the cardiorespiratory system – the heart and its ability to pump blood through the body’s arterial system and veins.

As Van Loon described in an ANU press release, their research is critical not only for the proposed Mars mission, but also for the burgeoning commercial spaceflight sector:

“We know it takes about six to seven months to travel to Mars, which can cause changes in the structure of your blood vessels or the strength of your heart because of the weightlessness associated with space travel in zero gravity.

With the rise of commercial space agencies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin, there is more space for people who are rich but not necessarily healthy, so we want to use mathematical models to predict whether someone is suitable for flying to Mars. “

Dr. Emma Tucker, co-author, astrophysicist and emergency medicine registrar, added that prolonged exposure to zero gravity may cause the heart to become lazy because it doesn’t have to work hard to overcome gravity and pump blood throughout the body.

“When you’re on Earth, gravity pulls fluid into the lower half of our body, which is why some people find their legs start to swell at the end of the day.

But when you go into space, the gravitational pull disappears, which means the fluid is transferred to the upper part of your body, which triggers a reaction that misleads the body into thinking there’s too much fluid.

As a result, you start going to the toilet a lot, you start expelling excess fluid, you don’t feel thirsty, and you don’t drink as much water, which means you’re dehydrated in space. “

That’s why astronauts returning from the International Space Station faint when they step on Earth again or need to be transported in a wheelchair, Tucker said.

The longer they stay in space, the more likely they are to collapse when they return to Earth, and the more difficult the process of re-adapting to Earth’s gravity.

In the case of the NASA twins study, Mark Kelly spent more than a year in orbit and experienced horrific pain, swelling and other symptoms on return (as he describes in the book) Endurance: A year in space, a lifetime of exploration).

Communication delays between Earth and Mars add to the complexity when it comes to missions to Mars. Depending on the alignment of the Sun, Earth and Mars, these delays can last up to 20 minutes, meaning astronauts must be able to perform their duties without immediate assistance from mission controllers or support personnel, including medical emergencies.

As Fan Long explained:

“If the astronauts fainted the first time they stepped out of the spacecraft, or had a medical emergency, there would be no one on Mars to help them.

That’s why we have to be absolutely sure that astronauts are fit to fly and can adapt to the gravitational field of Mars.

They must be able to operate effectively and efficiently with minimal support during the critical first few minutes. “

Their model relies on a machine-learning algorithm based on astronaut data collected from past expeditions on the International Space Station and Apollo missions to simulate the risks associated with traveling to Mars.

Tests have shown that it can simulate key cardiovascular hemodynamic changes after prolonged spaceflight and under different gravitational and fluid loading conditions. The results are encouraging because they show that astronauts can function after spending months in microgravity.

While the current model is powered by data from middle-aged and well-trained astronauts, the researchers hope to expand its capabilities to include commercial spaceflight data.

Ultimately, their goal is to create a model that can simulate the effects of prolonged space travel on relatively unhealthy individuals (in other words, untrained civilians) with heart disease. They hope the model will provide a more complete picture of what would happen if “everyday” people traveled to space.

It could be further refined to incorporate age-related health concerns, which would make sense given the number of celebrities who have recently flown into space (Wally Funk, William Shatner, Laura Shepard, Richard Branson, etc.).

who knows? It may be possible to model the effects of long-term exposure to microgravity on child and fetal development. This research is critical if we want to one day send humans to live on the Moon, Mars and other destinations.

This article was originally published by Universe Today. Read the original text.

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