Human spaceflight is dangerous, but worth the risk – Jan Wörner, the Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA).
Yuri Gagarin’s first trip into space in 1961 and the first Space Shuttle flight on the same day in 1981 are both commemorated on April 12 as part of the International Day of Human Space Flight. That served as the driving force behind the hundreds of space missions undertaken by humans since Gagarin, including six moon landings. Since November 2000, they have also maintained a permanent space presence aboard the International Space Station (ISS), which is currently in orbit.
However, a major change is currently taking place in the field of human spaceflight. The majority of space missions up until this point have either been short-distance (Low Earth Orbit—LEO) or short-duration (Apollo Lunar Missions). Future missions have the ambition to go farther and stay in space longer than ever before, pushing the limits of space travel. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and a number of private space firms (such as Blue Origin, SpaceX, and Virgin Galactic) have already started the process of getting ready for long-distance, long-duration space exploration, with plans to explore inner solar planets (such as Mars) by the 2030s. As a result of the emergence of space travel as a viable and intriguing new frontier for business, hospitality, medicine, and technology in the upcoming years, space travel has gained significant attention.
Space exploration is extremely dangerous. Space is first and foremost a harsh environment that does not accept mistakes made by humans or technical malfunctions. There are even greater risks for people who spend a lot of time outside Earth’s orbit. The following spaceflight hazards put the human body in danger while in space, including issues that arise before, after, and during the flight and have an impact on the crew’s health and ability to complete the mission.
1)The near absence of gravity
Our bodies constantly resist gravity to pump fluids up to our heads on Earth. When gravity is removed from the equation, you have all pumps and no dump – the cerebral fluid does not drain completely. As a result, fluid accumulates in both the face and the skull. This is referred to as Spaceflight Associated Neuro-ocular Syndrome (SANS).
Puffiness in the face disappears swiftly during the first few days of the journey as the body adjusts to microgravity. However, the changes in the CSF (Cerebrospinal fluid) that surrounds the brain might take months or even years to reverse following long-term spaceflight.
This increased pressure on the brain causes it to push up against the skull, causing the fluid-filled ventricles, or cavities, within the brain to expand. The pressure also presses against astronauts’ eyes, creating vision problems that need the use of glasses.
Although researchers might not fully understand all SANS symptoms or how to resist them, various preventive interventions have been recommended. These options include creating artificial gravity or placing astronauts in negative-pressure suits to drain fluid from their brains.
Earth is protected from cosmic radiation due to the Earth’s magnetic shield. Outside of this zone, however, highly charged particles pouring from the Sun (or beyond) might sever astronauts’ bodies, causing cell damage.
Above Earth’s natural protection, radiation exposure increases cancer risk, damages the central nervous system, can alter cognitive function, reduce motor function and prompt behavioral changes. Because the space station is just outside of Earth’s magnetic field, the astronauts are exposed to ten times more radiation than on Earth, but it’s still a lower dose than what deep space has in store.
Deep space vehicles will have considerable protective shielding, dosimetry(the measurement, calculation, and assessment of the ionizing radiation dose absorbed by an object, usually the human body.), and alarms to limit this risk. Medical countermeasures such as medicines are also being researched to assist defend against radiation.
3)Isolation and confinement
Behavioral challenges are unavoidable when large groups of individuals are jammed into a small location for an extended time, regardless of how highly trained they are.
Living on earth is a luxury of picking up the phone and getting connected with everything and everyone around us. But the space is more confined and isolated than we imagine. On a trip to the moon or Mars or further astronauts will be more isolated. Sleep deprivation, circadian desynchronization, and job pressure exacerbate the problem, potentially leading to performance declines, negative health outcomes, and compromised mission objectives.
4) Hostile/closed environments
A spacecraft is both a home and a machine. the ecosystem within a vehicle has a significant impact on astronaut life. Temperature, pressure, lighting, noise, and space are all important aspects in determining habitability. Astronauts must get enough food, sleep, and exercise to keep them healthy and happy. When in space everything has to be monitored from air quality to possible microbial inhabitants. Even the astronauts should contribute data points via urine and blood samples along with feedback on their living environment.
From the above-mentioned risks, it’s clear that human spaceflight is not as glamorous as it may seem. According to Mary Van Baalen, the acting director of human system risk management at NASA, “Space travel is an inherently risky endeavor, And the nature of human risk is complex.”
By Devanga de Silva (SEDS UOC)