I have decided to do my technical blog on the effects of space travel on the human body and how the is used to minimise these effects. It is well known that an astronaut is very vulnerable and putting themselves at risk when they go into space. Being in space can have many negative effects on a person. This can range from physiological problems, such as the loss of bone mass, to psychological problems, such as loneliness and depression. Bones and muscles lose a significant portion of their mass while a person is in space, Blood flow and fluids in the body are disturbed and must adapt to the change in gravity. Other issues that astronauts face are those like loneliness and depression. Being alone with the same few people for months at a time can have a huge psychological impact on people. These blogs will discuss the issues and dangers that astronauts face before, during and after spaceflight, and how technology is used to minimise them.
Before someone even considers going into space there are a number of areas that they need to be trained in and that they need to learn to adapt to. A couple of things that they learn about are medical procedures and survival training. A great deal of training that astronauts undergo involves simulating an environment similar to space to help them learn to adapt to those environments and to test them to see if they would be physically and mentally fit enough for an expedition into space.
As well as before spaceflight, there are many precautions that need to be taken by astronauts while they’re in space. One major health risk that astronauts face during their space expeditions is loss of muscle mass. Prolonged exposure to microgravity and the feeling of “almost weightlessness” means that muscles don’t work anywhere near as hard as they would on Earth. Hence, they lose a lot of mass very quickly. To minimise this, space shuttles are equipped with various specially designed exercise machines which astronauts must consistently use.
After spaceflight, an astronaut has to must go through rehabilitation. Due to the sudden change from microgravity to Earth gravity, astronauts’ bodies become incredibly weak. Because of this they are usually carried out of the shuttle by a rescue team after landing. Although there are slight differences, the technology used in post flight recovery is very similar to that used while in space.
While a lot of the technology used through the process of space travel is to minimise health problems, there are also measures taken to minimise hazards and to increase practicality. For example, food is freeze-dried and dehydrated. This allows two things. It allows the ability to take more food in to space and it also allows the food to last longer before it expires.
In my next blogs, I will discuss the use of technology before and during space flight in further detail as well as discussing how spacecrafts are built so that they can safely journey into space and return with minimal negative consequences.
 Astronauts in Training, Shelley Canright, April 9 2009. http://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/5-8/features/F_Astronauts_in_Training.html
 Schneider SM, Amonette WE, Blazine K, Bentley J, Lee SM, Loehr JA, Moore AD Jr, Rapley M, Mulder ER, Smith SM. (November 2003). "Training with the International Space Station interim resistive exercise device.". Medical Science Sports Exercise 35 (11): 1935–45