Long-term manned space missions is now impossible

The answer to the question of how in the coming years will be Russia’s contribution into the process of full exploration by the inhabitants of the Earth, not yet clear

Before the first manned flights into space, many physicians feared that in weightlessness the astronaut may be a different disease: ulcers and kidney stones, sudden weight loss, softening of bones, decreased muscle tone, the development of sea-sickness, disturbance of the orientation and other misfortunes. But in reality it turned out that astronauts in General are more or less able to adapt to microgravity and not to experience any serious discomfort, especially in flight conditions, the duration of which does not exceed 6-10 months. In order to reduce harmful effects to a minimum, the astronauts, while in orbit, exercise, diet, etc.

But how will affect the human body long-term space flight, lasting several years, physiologists have collected insufficient data.

In light of the active conversations and different messages about the future of manned human flight to Mars, which include the experiment “Mars-500” and recent statements by President Barack Obama . this information is very necessary.

In trying to clarify the issue to the current development of space medicine in the journal of Physiology interesting work that puts an end to the implementation of a manned flight to the red planet in the next few decades. Its authors, a group of American scientists led by Robert Pittam from Marquette University (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), studied the effects of long-term space flight (about 180 days) on the structure and function of fast (red) and slow (white) muscle fibers, the classification of which, as you know, based on the speed of the muscle contraction.

This is the first study on the cellular level, conducted on the example of the astronauts.


Why fly to Mars

For the task, the scientists took a biopsy of muscle cells from nine astronauts and cosmonauts working on the ISS for about 180 days. In particular, we have studied the gastrocnemius (responsible for flexion of the tibia and rotation of the foot) and soleus (responsible for the movement of the foot) muscles. Samples were taken 45 days before space flight and on the day of return to Earth.

Despite the fact that the astronauts regularly performed prescribed exercise, stay in orbit had a negative impact on the muscles.

Scientists have recorded the reduction in the volume of muscle fibers of the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles by approximately 20%, and the loss of muscle performance reached 55%. Moreover, the cosmonauts and astronauts who have gone in better physical condition compared to other study participants, according to the results of the flight did not receive any benefits. Moreover, as noticed by the authors of the article in The Journal of Physiology, ironically, it is in these participants ‘ flight to the ISS was observed with the greatest reduction in muscle volume.


2010 may become crucial in the planned space activities of humankind for decades to come

A manned expedition to Mars, by calculations of experts NASA, which has used in his work I and colleagues, is about three years. According to the estimates of physiologists, during this time, the muscle will lose its volume to 40-50%. Accordingly, their muscle strength will be similar to that possessed by the elderly.

It will not allow the expedition members nor to operate normally on the surface of Mars or to quickly evacuate in case of emergency landing on the surface of the Earth.

However, Robert I calls in any case not to abandon the idea of long term space flight. “A manned mission to Mars is the next frontier in the studies of humanity, some hundreds of years ago was an exploration of the Western hemisphere, he says. Without such studies we will get into a mode of stagnation and fail in all attempts to better understand the Universe in which we live”.

So, Dr. Fitts offers full use of the ISS for research and development of more sophisticated in comparison with current methods for the protection of muscles and bones of people working in orbit. For this scientist recommended that ESA and NASA to replace Shuttle flights in 2011 will be discontinued in the near future to develop and build a new vehicle that would regularly deliver to the ISS a minimum of six crew members for a period of 6-9 months. Apparently, a scientist has in mind that the delivery of astronauts to orbit among the “Unions” for such research will not be enough.

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