Human space colonies may be further away than we think, unfortunately. Scientists have long been studying the health effects of space travel on humans, and new findings indicate that the health effects can be harmful.
As explained by ScienceAlert, we have known that space travel has been dangerous for a long time, after all we have been doing it for over 50 years. But if our plan is to colonize Mars in the future, it is important that we understand exactly what is at stake.
According to findings made as part of NASA’s Twin Study, prolonged time in space can affect blood flow to the brain, alter the ratio of bacteria in the gut microbiome, and cause temporary visual disturbances, among other effects, due to the microgravity found. outside the Earth.
The problems begin during take-off, when astronauts are subjected to G-forces nearly three times greater than what we experience on Earth. After exiting our atmosphere, space radiation becomes a problem and something scientists are still trying to understand.
“Moving forward, our goal is to get a better idea of the underlying mechanisms, what is happening during long-duration spaceflight in the human body, and how it varies between people,” said Susan Bailey, a biologist at Colorado State. University. “Not everyone responds the same.”
A one-way trip to Mars can take about seven months, which means that a round trip leads to a minimum of well over a year in space, not counting the time to search the planet itself. While this might not seem like a lot of time, relatively speaking, it’s just shy of a single person’s record for the longest duration in space. Russian cosmonaut Valery Polyakov spent 438 consecutive days aboard the International Space Station in 2016.
This is only a singular case, however. To truly test the long-term health effects of space travel, we will inevitably need a larger sample size. Currently, much of the data is collected as part of NASA’s GeneLab project. This is a cheaper way for scientists to test samples and compare data.
The results of one of these tests indicated a collective change in the subjects’ mitochondria: tiny organelles within our cells that help convert food into usable energy. “What we have discovered over and over again is that something is happening with the regulation of mitochondria that knocks everything out,” said Afshin Beheshti, a bioinformatician at NASA’s Ames Research Center.
While the idea of living in space or on another planet is certainly tempting, we clearly have a lot more to understand first. For more space news, read NASA’s discovery of water on the moon and possible signs of life on Venus.
Matthew Adler is a feature, news, previews, reviews and wiki writer for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @MatthewAdler and stream it on Twitch.