Want to Stay Healthy in Space? Then you Want Artificial Gravity

A close up of three fruit flies, used for scientific research both on Earth and in space. Credits: NASA Ames Research Center/Dominic Hart

Space travel presents numerous challenges, not the least of which have to do with astronaut health and safety. And the farther these missions venture from Earth, the more significant they become. Beyond Earth’s protective atmosphere and magnetosphere, there’s the threat of long-term exposure to solar and cosmic radiation. But whereas radiation exposure can be mitigated with proper shielding, there are few strategies available for dealing with the other major hazard: long-term exposure to microgravity.

Aboard the International Space Station (ISS), astronauts rely on a strict regimen of exercise and resistance training to mitigate the physiological effects. These include muscle atrophy, bone density loss, organ function, eyesight, and effects on cardiovascular health, gene expression, and the central nervous system. But as a recent NASA study revealed, long-duration missions to Mars and other locations in deep space will need to be equipped with artificial gravity. This study examined the effects of microgravity on fruit flies aboard the ISS and demonstrated artificial gravity provides partial protection against those changes.

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Socks, The Final Frontier

ISS026-E-011334 (18 Dec. 2010) --- NASA astronaut Catherine (Cady) Coleman, Expedition 26 flight engineer, is pictured with a stowage container and its contents in the Harmony node of the International Space Station.
ISS026-E-011334 (18 Dec. 2010) --- NASA astronaut Catherine (Cady) Coleman, Expedition 26 flight engineer, is pictured with a stowage container and its contents in the Harmony node of the International Space Station.

What is the greatest challenge facing humans as we prepare for the first crewed missions to Mars? Solar and cosmic radiation? Atrophying bone and muscle? Growing food? How about laundry? It’s strange but true, right now we don’t have a way to clean laundry in space.

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Russia Says They Plan to Leave International Space Station after 2024

International Space Station
The International Space Station stretches out in an image captured by astronauts aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour during a fly-around in November 2021. Credit: NASA

According to Russia’s news agency Tass, leaders at Roscosmos have decided to withdraw from the International Space Station (ISS) after 2024. The report said that by that time, “all obligations to partners will be fulfilled.” Additionally, Russia said they want to build their own space station.

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Many Astronauts Never Recover all of their Bone Density after Returning to Earth

In his book, Endurance, astronaut Scott Kelly described the arduous task of readjusting to life on Earth after spending a year in space. As part of NASA’s Twins Study, Kelly lived and worked aboard the International Space Station (ISS) while his identical twin (astronaut Mark Kelly) remained on Earth. While the results of this study revealed how prolonged exposure to microgravity could lead to all manner of physiological changes, the long and painful recovery Kelly described in his book painted a much more personal and candid picture.

As it turns out, astronauts who spend extended periods in space may never fully recover. At least, that is the conclusion reached by an international team led by the University of Calgary after they assessed the bone strength of multiple astronauts before and after they went to space. They found that after twelve months of recovery, the astronaut’s bones had not regenerated completely. These findings could have significant implications for proposed future missions, many of which involve long-duration stays in space, on the Moon, and Mars.

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Fire Acts Strangely in Microgravity. Astronauts Have Lit More Than 1,500 Fires on the Space Station to Figure Out Why

Ever since childhood, we were all told to never play with fire. Despite it being relevant to our everyday lives, to include heating our homes and water, cooking our food, producing electricity, and more, fire is extremely dangerous. We were all indoctrinated more with how to put out fires instead of how to start one. We’ve all been told about its destructive properties if mishandled, and that fire needs to be controlled. One of the perks of adulthood, and especially being a scientist, is you get paid to play with fire. Despite fire’s complexities, there’s still a lot we don’t know about its behavior. With more and more of humanity traveling to space and living in microgravity, it’s important to learn about how fire behaves in this unique environment to better prepare ourselves for worst case scenarios. But what if we could also control fire so it’s not as dangerous and less destructive to the environment back here on Earth?

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ESA is Developing Microbe-Killing Coatings to Make Spaceflight Healthier

Humans aren’t the only living things in place onboard the ISS. Bacteria, which has found a way to integrate itself into every biome on Earth, has also found a home in the aseptic microgravity of the space station high above it. Unfortunately, this poses a hazard to both the astronauts that live on the ISS and the station itself. But now, a team of researchers funded by ESA and the Instituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) think they have a solution – make the surfaces on the ISS antimicrobial.

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Crew-4 is off to the Station

Name someone who at some point in their life didn’t want to be an astronaut. The answer is no one. Ask any kid what they want to be when they grow up and they all say an astronaut. Being an astronaut is the ultimate dream job for everyone of all ages. Why? Because you get to go to space, and there’s nothing cooler than going into space. For context, even if you’re not a sports fan you have watched the Super Bowl at least once in your life. It is one of the most watched and most lauded sports championship games in the entire world, and yet despite all its media attention and halftime shows and all-time great finishes, the Super Bowl still holds a candle to being able to go to space. Eat your heart out, Tom Brady. Going into space is just awesome, and there’s nothing like it.

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The Four Private Axiom Astronauts are off to the International Space Station

The Ax-1 crew aboard the Dragon Endeavor spacecraft. Credit: SpaceX

This morning, at 11:17 AM EDT (08:17 AM PDT), the first all-private astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS) lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Designated Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1), this mission consists of four commercial astronauts flying aboard the SpaceX Dragon Endeavour spacecraft that launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The launch was live-streamed via NASA’s official Youtube channel (you can catch the replay here).

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Three Cosmonauts Arrive at the ISS Wearing Bright Yellow Jumpsuits

About a month ago, Russian forces invaded Ukraine, placing NATO on high alert and creating a shock wave felt around the world. One place that has been particularly resilient to the effects of this conflict is the International Space Station (ISS). Even as tensions mount and the heads of space agencies engage in an online war of words, astronauts and cosmonauts continue to work and live together in orbit.

On the other hand, there have been some clear attempts to drag the ISS into political turmoil. Case in point: the recent photo that shows three Russian cosmonauts wearing bright yellow and blue jumpsuits, the colors of the Ukrainian flag! Depending on who you ask, this was either a display of unity with the people of Ukraine or just a coincidence. Opinions vary, but this was likely nothing more than oddly fortuitous.

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