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New research is showing what might happen to the body in space as interest in space tourism booms

Space tourism is a luxury that has recently been offered, and that might soon become a reality. In order to make this feasible, several firms aim to scale up their technologies. Take, for instance, the Blue Origin of Jeff Bezos, now open to ticket bids on his New Shepard voyage scheduled for July 2021 (current top offer: $2.8 million). The new project "DearMoon," unveiled in the 2023 "Weekly Starship Mission around the Moon" by Elon Musk, SpaceX of Japan, and entrepreneur Yusaku Maezaw of Japan. These are only two of the most important names in space travel, with many smaller enterprises increasing their operations in mind for scalable space travel.

In fact, because the chances of space flight are progressively increasing, one can only wonder: am I cut off for space flight? Can my body deal with outer space rigors? After all, it is not the faint-hearted to go into space. The body endures a considerable alteration, such as a decrease in gravity, sunlight exposure, and muscle atrophy – only to mention a couple of the numerous health repercussions.

The scientific community has committed considerable resources in researching what exactly takes place in the human body on space voyages since the first journeys began approximately 60 years ago.

A new publication in Nature details research carried out to assess the effects of muscle mass and strength during spaceflight. The study "set two murine [Mouse] experimental groups in orbit, under artificial Earth-gravity (Ag) and microgravity (MG), onboard the International Space Station for three weeks, to examine if artificial 1 g exposure prevents muscle atrophy at the molecular level," was conducted in collaboration with Tsukuba University. The outcomes have certainly been fussy. The research authors note that their "principal findings show that the onboard AG environment not only avoided changes in the muscular mass and fiber but also altered the gene expression profile, under microgravity in the muscle. Transcriptome research, in particular, indicated that the disease of AG might prevent changes in several genes connected to atrophy.'

These findings correspond to the National Space and Aeronautics Authority (NASA). Actually, a NASA factsheet states:"... the lack of gravity makes it physiologically unnecessary to work in a spaceship. On earth, several muscles must be used continually to resist the power of gravity. These generally referred to as antigravity muscles, comprise the bald, quadriceptic, and back and neck muscles. Astronauts work in a weightless environment, a very small amount of muscular contraction is required to sustain or move around their body."Studies have indicated astronauts undergo up to 20 percent loss of muscle mass during spaceflights of five to 11 days [...] The factsheet gives stunning data. Astronauts spend 2 1/2 hours per day exercising on the International Space Station to fight atrophy effects."

(Photo by NASA/Underwood Archives/Getty Images)
View of the Earth as it was moon-rounded, May 1969, above the lunar horizon seen from the Apollo 10 Lunar Module.

Something other worth contemplating is human spaceflight. The first threat on its list is space radiation exposure, according to NASA, which the agency "increases the risk of carcinogenicity and affects the central nervous system, can disrupt cognitive functions, lower engine operation and change behavior quickly." In addition, the agency listed "insulation and confinement" and "hostile/closed settings" as two more major issues, underlining that space flight, in addition to the physical toll, has substantial consequences for mental and behavioral health.

The European Space Agency's team of five particle accelerators in Europe are enabling cosmic radiation to be recreated by 'shooting' nuclear particles at speeds nearing light speed. In order to learn how to best safeguard astronauts, researchers bombarded biological cells and radioactive particles.

The scientist Marco Durante said that "the study is paying off" and he said that "Lithium is a potential material in planetary missions for shielding."

NASA’s Human Research Program (HRP) is another pioneer in the research arena. The agency “partners with external entities in researching and developing innovative approaches to reduce risks to humans on long-duration exploration missions, including NASA’s Journey to Mars. One of these partnerships is the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) […] The mission of the TRISH is to lead a national effort in translating cutting-edge emerging terrestrial biomedical research and technology development into applied space flight human risk mitigation strategies for human exploration missions.”

(Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 9: Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, Blue Origin and owner of The Washington Post

The impacts on the human body of space travel have still to be examined and so many complexities have still to be investigated. Indeed, given the ever more rapid growth of a space race and interest in space tourism, only time will tell how mankind is confronted with the difficulties and experiences of this new frontier.

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