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I chose this topic because I am fascinated by astronomy, particularly the study of our own solar system. This is an important topic because NASA and other organizations are attempting to reach Mars. In reality, NASA has stated that humanity will reach Mars by 2030 [citation]. As a result, much research is being conducted on the effects of extended space flight on humans.. A lot of studies and experiments are currently being conducted regarding the feasibility of long distance space flight on humans. This is why I selected this subject. I am going to analyze and see what is currently known on the subject in order to help show the current breakthroughs with long-term space flight on humans as well as what aspects of this need to be studied more.
Introduction and Purpose
The purpose of this paper is to come to a better conclusion about what is known and unknown regarding the effects of extended space travel on humans. With organizations such as NASA working harder and harder to get humans to Mars, this subject is extremely relevant. To help reach this goal, conducting an analysis of what research has been completed is beneficial. By determining what is already known about the effects of long terms space flight on astronauts and what current experiments are researching, it is possible to conclude what aspects of extended space flight need to be studied more. Through an analysis of the known and unknown, this paper will shed some light on the future of extended space flight for humans and what needs to be done before such a feat is possible.
Going into space was a fantasy of people well before it was really achievable. It was not in any case conceivable until hypothetical and viable leaps forward by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky and Robert Goddard during the 20th century (Tomilovskaya et al, 2011). Konstantin worked out each principal theoretical problem related to space travel and became the theoretical father of space flight. On the other hand, Goddard was the first person to launch a liquid-fueled rocket in addition to developing the majority of key principles of rocket guidance. Therefore, he was the first person to develop a rocket into a practical device. Research and discoveries by both men introduced what is generally known as the Space Race between the Soviet Union and the United States. It was during this period that the first human beings entered space (Bainbridge, 2009).
At the beginning of the Space Race, the Soviet Union had more achievement including launching Yuri Gagarin, the first man into space on April 12, 1961, as part of the Vostok program. The United States was included in a comparative program called Project Mercury, which effectively made Alan Shepard the first American to fly in space during a suborbital flight on May 5, 1961. Shepard was likewise the first human to effectively arrive inside a spacecraft. On February 20, 1962, John Glenn was the first American in orbit (Palinkas, 2012). Notwithstanding these men, the United States launched six more space travelers into a suborbital and orbital flight through 1963. Likewise, the USSR launched five more space explorers into space during a similar time including the first woman, Valentina Tereshkova.
The stakes of the Space Race changed on May 25, 1961, when US President John F Kennedy reported an objective to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade. In accordance with its political objectives of the time, the USSR stayed silent on their objectives for space travel. However, the accomplishment of the first spacewalk goes to Soviets cosmonaut Alexei Lenov who finished the feat on March 8, 1965. While the US didn't finish the first spacewalk, they made some major logical achievements to cause get them nearer to their objective of sending men to the moon. Probably the most critical leaps forward they made included taking care of the issue of weariness from defeating the absence of gravity, placing space explorers into space for two weeks, effectively finishing a space rendezvous, and docking a rocket (Bainbridge, 2009).
Towards the end of the 1960s, the US figured out how to send space explorers in the Apollo shuttle to the moon where their specialty circled around the moon, however, did not land on it. That achievement belongs to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin who made Kennedy's dream a reality on July 21 1969 months before the end of the decade. This was the first of six US missions to send space travelers to the moon, which went through 1972. During a similar time, the USSR covertly created programs devoted to human lunar circling and landing. While they could build up a lunar spacecraft, they did not build up a rocket fit for finishing human landings. Rather than concentrating on moon missions, the Soviets committed their space program to the advancement of space stations and the science behind effectively propelling cosmonauts back and forth between their Salyut space stations (Palinkas, 2012). This happened basically between 1971 and 1986.
During this time the US committed their space program to the improvement of a space transport that could be reused for various dispatches. It began flying in 1981. They built four shuttles named Atlantis, Columbia, Challenger, and Discovery. Challenger was crushed in a mishap on January 28, 1986, killing seven space explorers. It was the replaced by Endeavor. The USSR additionally manufactured a reusable space carry named Buran, yet it just made a solitary, unmanned orbital dry run in 1988 preceding being decommissioned because of the USSR dissolving in 1991. As the Cold War ended, the Space Race additionally ended because of facilitating pressures between the USSR and the USA (Bainbridge, 2009). One of the greatest triumphs of cooperation between the United States and the Russian space program that supplanted the previous Soviet space program was the International Space Station. It was authorized by then US President Bill Clinton in 1993. It was effectively propelled into space on November 20 1998.
Obviously, Russia and the United States are not by any means the only nations committed to spaceflight. China entered the opposition in 1967 and effectively propelled their first satellite on April, 24 1970. They were the third nation to freely send people into spaceflight when Yang Liwei finished a 21-hour flight on October 15, 2003. The province likewise propelled a space station into space in 2011, and their first female space traveler was Liu Yang who went into space on June 16, 2012. Europe additionally got included in space flight with the advancement of the European Space Agency in 1987. Ulf Merbold was the main ESA space traveler to go into space as a major aspect of the ESA, at the same time, when he did it in 1983, it was on Columbia, in this way, not at all like China, his central goal was not viewed as an autonomous mission since ESA and Merbold coordinated with NASA. Since 1987, the ESA has extended its space missions and research including sending more people into space (Billings, 2006). Like the ESA, Japan has sent space travelers into space as far back as 1990, yet the nation has not sent people into space autonomously (Williams et al, 2009). Japan is not the only one in this attempt, in any case, in light of the fact that a sum of 37 nations has sent nationals into space. Obviously, a large portion of these space explorers went into space with the assistance of the United States, USSR/Russia, or China. Different nations are at present investigating choices to send nationals into space freely including India and Iran (Bainbridge, 2009).
After the end of the Space Race, the spaceflight has witnessed greater international operation, increase in the commercial ventures and cheaper access to the low orbit by many countries. The Constellation Program under the Bush administration had plans to retire the Shuttle program and replace it with the capability for spaceflight beyond low Earth orbit; however, it was not until the Obama administration that the project was canceled as it was behind schedule and over budget (Williams et al, 2009). NASA is building the Orion spacecraft that will be launched by the Space Launch System for beyond low Earth orbit. In order to reach low earth orbit, NASA has relied upon transportation services by the private sectors; for instance, the Sierra Nevada, Space X's, Boeing's CST-100, and Corporation's Dream Chaser among others. After the early 2000's many private spaceflight ventures have been undertaken. As of 2016, programs have been developed underway to fly the commercial passengers (Billings, 2006).
Currently Virgin Galactic is developing a commercial suborbital spacecraft called Spaceship Two which targets the space tourism market. Boeing and SpaceX are also developing passenger-capable orbital space capsules beginning 2015 which intends to fly NASA astronauts to the International Space Station towards the end of 2017/2018.
Astronauts and cosmonauts from many nations have flown in space after the Cold War and as of 2007; Nationals of 33 countries have flown into space through Soviet, American, Chinese and Russian spacecraft. The capability of India and Japan has been on the rise. As of May 2017, citizens from 37 countries have traveled into space, 547 individuals have reached the orbit of Earth while 556 have reached the space altitude. Also, just 24 individuals have gone beyond low Earth orbit (NASA.gov, 2017).
Interplanetary tests have gone by to every one of the planets within the solar system, and individuals have been in orbit for longer periods utilizing space stations like ISS and Mir. Recently, China has risen as the third country with huge spaceflight ability, including highly manned missions (Williams et al, 2009).
Over the years, space travels have increased due to the advancement in technology which has increased the capability of many nations. However, long terms space flights have been reported to have many effects on the astronauts theoretically due to the differences in the atmospheric conditions. Space is a harsh environment that has adverse effects on the body in a number of ways. Firstly, it is a microgravity results in bone loss thus leading tothe acceleration of changes that are related to age just like osteoporosis. Extended space flights result in the decrease in bone strength and density in the skeletal regions because of prolonged stay to weightlessness (Palinkas, 2012). In addition, it is assumed to cause bone fractures and kidney stones due to bone demineralization. Since the astronauts do not walk in space, bones become thinner due to their floatation, and this is bad news for bones that have to bear weight so as to be stronger. The lack of weight-bearing in space also affects spine and legs, and they leach calcium thereby becoming weak and brittle in what is referred to as disuse osteoporosis (Williams et al, 2009).
On the other hand, space has zero gravity, and therefore the organs move as the astronauts float. As a result, the liver and diaphragm tend to be higher than when one is on the ground (Tomilovskaya et al, 2011). In addition to the shift in the location of the organs, the shapes of the organs are also capable of changing. Also, long-duration space travel causes psychological stress, and they are confined in small spaces with one another for a long period of time. In addition, isolation during the long missions could result in cabin fever as well as other psychological problems that could impact the safety of the crew and the success of the missions (Williams et al, 2009). The absence of gravity results in additional physical effects. For instance, astronauts are in a rotating spaceship and therefore would feel like they are being pushed away by force from the Centre of gravity (NASA.gov, 2017). This would result in dizziness and a puffy face. Since gravity and acceleration tend to be equivalent; theoretically, in case a spacecraft could maintain a given acceleration, it could negate the worst health effects of the lack of weight in space. In addition, astronauts are not protected by the magnetic field and atmosphere of the Earth and therefore are at greater risk from the hazardous radiations that the Sun, distant galaxies, and stars emit. Long exposure to such radiations could trigger cancer as well as radiation poisoning. Additionally, higher energy particles in space could damage the electronic components of spacecraft (Palinkas, 2012).
Modern Experimental Procedures
In order to determine with certainty the effects of extended space flights, several empirical experiments have been conducted over the years. Firstly, the Microbiome experiment was conducted to investigate the effects of long duration space travel on the human system as well as the Microbiome of an individual (NASA.gov, 2017). The research aimed at determining how long-duration space travel affects human health by collecting various samples from the crewmembers of International Space Station before, during, and after their respective missions to the ISS in determining the effects of microgravity or the ISS environment on their immune system function, stress levels, and Microbiome. Another experiment was also carried out by Yoko Honda, Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology together with his crew to determine the effects of space flight of the aging using a C. elegans roundworm. This experiment aimed at determining the physiological changes caused by microgravity.
Furthermore, recently, there has been the twin study, which compared the astronaut Scott Kelly to Mark Kelly, his retired astronaut identical twin brother to determine the effects of extended space travel on the human body (Tomilovskaya et al, 2011). In this experiment, one-year long space experiment, one of the twins was on a 340-day mission on board the ISS while the other one remained on earth. The two twin astronaut's volunteered for the NASA space study and upon touching down on earth; data from the astronaut was taken and measured against his twin brother who remained on earth to determine the effects of the long duration space travel on the body (Yasmin, 2015). This experiment helped in studying what happens to the human body after extended exposure to cramped quarters, weightlessness, and damaging radiation.
From the studies, several effects of spaceflight on the human body have been arrived at. Humans who venture into the space environment can have several negative effects on the body, and the significant adverse effects of extended weightlessness include deterioration of the skeleton and muscle atrophy because space wreaks havoc on each and every part of the human body because the microgravity cannot create conditions being experienced on earth (Yasmin, 2015).
With regards to the Twins Study, there were some genetic changes in Scott Kelly while he was in space; for instance, there was a change in his telomeres. Usually, telomeres shorten as a person ages; however, it became longer while Scott was in space (Yasmin, 2015). Astronauts have shorter telomeres than ordinary people because of the intense training on Earth which is stressful. Therefore, the increase in length could imply that being in space is actually less stressful.
A look at the twin's Microbiome and Scott had different Microbiome from his brother. However, the astronauts stay healthy while in space and the difference was because of difference in diets and environment.
Thirdly, the bones of the two men were compared, and it was discovered that Scott had lower bone formation during the second half of the mission than his brother which confirmed the expectation that he would have more bone loss. However, there was an increase in the hormone responsible for bone and muscle health probably due to the exercise that Scott was having. The bones did change though, but they remained as strong as before (Yasmin, 2015).
Additionally, the fine motor skills were also tested by having the twins perform tasks using their fingers on a tablet computer screen, and it was discovered that the accuracy of Scott, as well as the reaction time, reduced a bit while in space (Tomilovskaya et al, 2011).
Other results of the Twin Study indicate that skin becomes thinner while in space. The skins tend to be drier and more prone to abrasions, cuts, and infection when in space. When an astronaut returns from space their skins become more stretchy that when on earth. Therefore, it is evident that there are two major sources of hazard in space flights; for instance, those associated with the environment of the space making it hostile to the body of astronauts as well as the potential for the mechanical malfunctions of the equipment needed in accomplishing space flight (Yasmin, 2015). Those planning spaceflight missions are faced with many safety concerns. First, the environmental conditions there do not support life, and therefore life support system of the spacecraft requires a constant supply of drinkable water and breathable air. Also, medical consequences like possible blindness may also occur during the spaceflight. In the case of solar fare during the journey, astronauts could suffer severe radiation sickness (Williams et al, 2009).
Throughout the years, space travels have expanded because of the progression in innovation which has expanded the ability of numerous countries. Be that as it may, long terms space flights have been reported to have adverse effects on the space travelers. Therefore, some experiments and studies have been directed to the field to determine the effects of extended space travels of human beings. One of such practical example is the Twin Study that has confirmed many of the propositions. Firstly, the space environment results in several negative effects on the body and the significant adverse effects of extended weightlessness includes deterioration of the skeleton and muscle atrophy because the microgravity cannot create conditions being experienced on earth (Yasmin, 2015). Secondly, extended space travel results in genetic changes such as an increase in telomeres. Also, it results in lower bone formation. With regards to fine motor skills, extended space travel lowers the accuracy and reaction time of a person. Long duration space travel makes the skin to become thinner and drier as well as more prone to abrasions, cuts, and infection. Also, there are medical consequences like possible blindness and suffering of severe radiation sickness in the case of solar fare during the journey.
Long duration space travel has two major sources of hazard such as those associated with the environment of the space making it hostile to the body of astronauts as well as the potential for the mechanical malfunctions of the equipment needed in accomplishing space flight (Wei-haas, 2016). Therefore, many more strict safety concerns should be put in place by those planning spaceflight missions.
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Billings, L. (2006). Exploration for the masses?Or joyrides for the ultra-rich?Prospects for space tourism.Space Policy, 22(3), 162-164. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.spacepol.2006.05.001
NASA.gov.(2017).NASA - Study of the Impact of Long-Term Space Travel on the Astronauts' Microbiome. (2017). Retrieved 5 May 2017, from https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1010.html
Palinkas, L. a. (2012).Psychology of space exploration.Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine (Vol. 83). https://doi.org/10.3357/ASEM.3231.2012
Tomilovskaya, E. S., Reschke, M. F., Krnavek, J. M., &Kozlovskaya, I. (2011). Effects of long-duration space flight on target acquisition. In ActaAstronautica (Vol. 68, pp. 1454-1461). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.actaastro.2009.11.005
Wei-haas, M. (2016). What Happens to the Human Body in Space?.Smithsonian. Retrieved 5 May 2017, from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/what-happens-human-body-space-180958259/
Williams, D., Kuipers, A., Mukai, C., &Thirsk, R. (2009). Acclimation during space flight: effects on human physiology. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association Journal = Journal de l'AssociationMedicaleCanadienne, 180(13), 1317-23. https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.090628
Yasmin, s. (2015).How space travel affects the human body. Interactives.dallasnews.com. Retrieved 5 May 2017, from http://interactives.dallasnews.com/2015/spacebody/
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