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Insights from All-Civilian Crew Illuminate Health Impacts of Space Travel

Published On Wed, 12 Jun 2024
Arpita Talwar
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WASHINGTON — In 2021, paediatric cancer survivor Hayley Arceneaux and her crewmates embarked on SpaceX's Inspiration4 mission, making history as the first all-civilian team to orbit Earth. Beyond this milestone, their journey provided unprecedented insights into the effects of space travel on human physiology.
New research, drawing from the data collected during the mission, delves into alterations observed in various bodily systems including the brain, heart, muscles, kidneys, skin, immune function, and stress responses in the microgravity environment, heightened radiation exposure, and other space-related factors.
While more than 95% of the biomarkers monitored returned to preflight levels in the months following their return, certain irregularities persisted, notably in mitochondrial activity. However, the findings suggest that short-duration spaceflights entail minimal health risks. Chris Mason, a professor at Weill Cornell Medicine, noted that while some brain-associated proteins were detected post-mission, cognitive function remained unaffected. He referenced studies on experimental mice flown to space, which exhibited disruptions in the blood-brain barrier, possibly explaining the observed brain stress.
The research, which included extensive monitoring and sampling of the Inspiration4 crew, alongside data from previous missions, underscores the need to comprehend the health implications of space travel amid the emergence of commercial space endeavors. The study highlights the significance of duration in space missions, with longer durations correlating with heightened health risks. Insights from Inspiration4 and other missions shed light on mitochondrial function and immune regulation, revealing systemic impacts on various organs.
Afshin Beheshti of the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science emphasized the importance of identifying key health risks and developing countermeasures to mitigate the adverse effects of spaceflight, particularly concerning cellular dysfunction and accelerated aging. Looking ahead, researchers aim to establish comprehensive baseline metrics to better understand human responses to space environments.
Disclaimer: This image is taken from Reuters.
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