Home » Science » Earth Sciences » Atmospheric Science » What is the Effect of Spaceflight on the Human Body?

What is the Effect of Spaceflight on the Human Body?

For several decades, NASA’s Human Research Program (HRP) has researched extensively about the human body’s response to the conditions in outer space. With the knowledge they have and the data gathered the department was able to design devices, create protocols and develop strategies to keep all the astronauts safe whenever they go on missions. 

Due to the conditions in outer space, humans have only nine to twelve seconds to be conscious outside the airlock, and they are completely rescuable for at least 30 seconds. Anything beyond that would be detrimental.

What are the Dangers of Going into Outer Space? 

Without proper protection, the environment of space is lethal. The primary concern in the vacuum of space is the lack of oxygen and pressure. However, temperature and radiation are also equally dangerous. 

Ebullism, hypoxia, hypocapnia, and decompression sickness are possible side effects of space exposure. In addition, there is cellular mutation and destruction caused by high-energy photons and sub-atomic particles found in the environment.

Decompression is a major problem, especially during astronauts’ Extra-Vehicular Activities (EVAs). Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) designs have changed over time to consider this and other challenges. 

A key issue has been the competing interests of increasing astronaut mobility, which is reduced by high-pressure EMUs, analogous to the difficulty of deforming an inflated balloon relative to a deflated one and minimizing decompression risk.

Investigators have considered pressurizing a separate head unit to the standard cabin pressure of 71 kPa or 10.3 psi rather than the existing whole-EMU pressure of 29.6 kPa or 4.3 psi. The torso might be pressurized mechanically with this design, minimizing the mobility loss associated with pneumatic pressurization. (Source: NASA)

What are the Psychological Effects of Living in Space? 

It hasn’t been well studied, yet there are similarities on Earth, such as Arctic research stations and submarines. Anxiety, sleeplessness, and melancholy might emerge from the crew’s extreme stress, as well as the body’s adaptation to other environmental changes.

There has been considerable evidence that psychosocial stressors are among the most significant impediments to optimal crew morale and performance. 

Cosmonaut Valery Ryumin, twice Hero of the Soviet Union, quotes this passage from The Handbook of Hymen by O. Henry in his autobiographical book about the Salyut 6 mission.

If you want to instigate the art of manslaughter just shut two men up in an eighteen by the twenty-foot cabin for a month. Human nature won’t stand it.

O. Henry, The Handbook of Hymen

How Does Radiation Affect the Human Body in Spaceflight? 

High radiation doses destroy lymphocytes, essential cells in the immune system’s maintenance; this damage results in astronauts’ decreased immunity.

Radiation has also been linked to an increased incidence of cataracts in astronauts. Outside of low Earth orbit, galactic cosmic rays pose additional challenges to human spaceflight. The health threat posed by cosmic rays significantly increases the chances of cancer over a decade or more of exposure.

According to a NASA-funded study, radiation can injure astronauts’ brains and hasten the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Solar flares, though rare, can deliver a lethal dose of radiation in minutes. It is believed that protective shielding and protective drugs will eventually reduce the risks to an acceptable level. (Source: NASA)

Leave a Comment