Zooming into space looks like one of the most fun jobs there is but as well as the obvious safety challenges it comes with physical risks to the body.
As we revealed yesterday astronauts can grow three inches in space, leaving them with chronic back pain as their muscles expand then contract when they come back down to Earth.
Kim Carr finds 10 out of this world facts about what happens when you go into space…
1. It’s not only the muscles affected when humans go into space. Gravity on Earth is stronger which means bones weaken too. Astronauts have to exercise for around two hours a day or risk losing 12% of bone density – and they need to be strapped down so they don’t float away!
2. That pesky gravity situation also effects blood and bodily fluids, which have nothing to hold them down like we are used to. Humans in space have swollen faces – including blown-up nostril membranes, which result in a blocked-up nose. The fluid shifting from the legs to the head could fill a two-litre bottle.
3. The atmosphere surrounding earth gives us oxygen to breathe and protects those on Earth from UV ray and radiation. As there’s no atmosphere in space, astronauts are exposed to 10 times the amount of radiation compared to those on Earth, which increases their risk of developing diseases such as cancer.
4. It’s very difficult to sleep in space – being tied down to your bed is essential – so most astronauts only get around six hours sleep. The Sun rises every 90 minutes making the switch from day to night light confusing for the brain.
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5. The vestibular organ inside our ears – tucked in the inner ear – keeps the body balanced. In space the information sent to it changes due to low gravity, confuses the brain, and leads to space sickness including headaches, nausea, and vomiting.
6. An astronaut loses around 5% of their bodyweight as in space their appetite decreases.
It’s essential to eat higher calorie foods to offset this – keep calcium levels high for those bones – so astronauts often taste-test their food and select personal menus in order to incentivise munching even when they don’t feel like it.
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7. Upon entering weightlessness the body reduces the number of red blood cells and the volume of blood in circulation, which can lead to excess iron in places like the liver.
8. As there’s no free-flowing water in space, staying clean is a challenge. Astronauts use antibacterial wipes to scrub down their bodies, dry shampoo, and spit toothpaste into a wipe.
9. Pressure changes in the brain can affect vision and astronauts are at risk of Spaceflight-Associated Neuro-Ocular Syndrome, which leads to decreased sharpness of vision, swelling and flattening of structures in the eye.
10. Space is a stressful place to be due to living in tight conditions. Astronauts often struggle with living in close proximity to others – often strangers, who may not even speak the same language – so mental health is put under enormous strain.
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