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Space and our Bodies: Gravity

By Michael Chang

Space, the gargantuan area that surrounds the small blue marble we call our planet, is a dangerous place. Even deadly is an understatement. In space, there is nothing to help us slow down, let us hear each other, and or support our fragile bodies in the vast expanse of practically nothing. As technology advances and human exploration reaches beyond our planet, the effects of space on our bodies becomes an unavoidable obstacle for space agencies.

Gravity is something we take for granted on Earth. It pulls everything towards the ground below us, and helps keep things in place. In space, there is no force pulling anywhere, meaning that we have little resistance to momentum in any direction. In the long term, the lack of gravity causes drastic differences to the body structure. First, the skeleton basically loses most of its function. The skeleton is stretched out, since normally, our bones would be pushed together by gravity. This make your bones less strong, as it takes much less energy for your body to stay upright. According to a study don by NASA, when in zero gravity, an astronaut’s bone density decreases by 1% per month. After returning to Earth, the loss of bone density may not be corrected by rehabilitation, and long term effects include osteoporosis.

In additions to the loss of bone density while in space, fluids such as blood may not be distributed as intended back on Earth. Fluids exert less pressure from the control centre of your body: the head. Usually, blood and other fluids are held down by gravity, making the heart run its course. Now that there is less resistance to the blood flow, blood pressure may increase or your heart may become weaker. As more amounts of liquids in your body travel to your head, blood vessels may suddenly enlarge, making astronauts have headaches and suffer from vision problems.

The loss of bone density then leads to a larger problem. As our bodies realize we do not need the current bone density, it begins to excrete calcium from our bones. This may result in kidney stones, causing sharp throbs of pain as they pass. Even with proper nutrition inside spacecraft, these problems continue to plague space travelers.

Now that technology has gained momentum and is developing faster than ever, us humans need to learn about the changes to our health when we use such technology. Although gravity is something we take for granted, in the field of space travel and exploration, not having proper prior planning may be unforgiving.

About Michael Chang

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