# Weightlessness affects health of cosmonauts at molecular level

## Weightlessness affects health of cosmonauts at molecular level

Weightlessness affects health of cosmonauts at molecular level

August 30, 2017, Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology

Weightlessness affects health of cosmonauts at molecular level
Space abstraction. Credit: MIPT's Press Office

A team of scientists from Russia and Canada has analyzed the effect of space conditions on the protein composition in blood samples of 18 Russian cosmonauts. The results indicate many significant changes in the human body are caused by space flight. These changes are intended to help the body adapt and take place in all major types of human cells, tissues and organs. The results of the research have been published in the prestigious scientific journal Scientific Reports. Skoltech and MIPT Professor Evgeny Nikolaev led the study and is a corresponding author.

The effects of spaceflight on the human body have been studied actively since the mid-20th century. It is widely known that space conditions influence metabolism, thermoregulation, heart biorhythms, muscle tone, the respiratory system and other physiological aspects of the human body. However, the molecular mechanisms driving these physiological changes remain unknown.

The scientists focused on proteins, key players in the adaptive processes in an organism. To gain a deeper understanding of the changes in human physiology during space travel, the research team quantified concentrations of 125 proteins in the blood plasma of 18 Russian cosmonauts who had been on long-duration missions to the International Space Station. The blood was drawn 30 days prior to their flights, and again immediately after their return to Earth, and a final sample seven days after that. This timing was chosen to identify trends in protein concentration changes and see how fast the protein concentrations returned to their normal levels prior to the flight.

Protein concentrations were measured using a mass spectrometer. This technology makes it possible to identify a particular molecule and perform a quantitative analysis of a mixture of substances. The scientists found proteins whose concentrations remained unchanged, as well as those whose concentrations did change, but recovered rapidly to their pre-flight levels, and those whose levels recovered very slowly after the cosmonaut's return to Earth.

"For the research, we took a set of proteins—non-infectious disease biomarkers. The results showed that in weightlessness, the immune system acts like it does when the body is infected, because the human body doesn't know what to do and tries to turn on all possible defense systems. For this study, we began by using quantitative proteomics to study the cosmonauts' blood indicators, so we detected not only the presence of a protein but its amount, as well. We plan to use a targeted approach in the future to detect more specific proteins responsible for the human response to space conditions. To do this, the cosmonauts will have to take blood tests while in orbit," said Professor Nikolaev.

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Also mentioned at:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artificial_gravity

The proposed Tempo3 mission rotates two halves of a spacecraft connected by a tether to test the feasibility of simulating gravity on a manned mission to Mars.[15]

The Mars Gravity Biosatellite was a proposed mission meant to study the effect of artificial gravity on mammals. An artificial gravity field of 0.38 g (equivalent to Mars's surface gravity) was to be produced by rotation (32 rpm, radius of ca. 30 cm). Fifteen mice would have orbited Earth (Low Earth orbit) for five weeks and then land alive.[16] However, the program was canceled on 24 June 2009, due to lack of funding and shifting priorities at NASA.[17]

Issues with implementation

Some of the reasons that artificial gravity remains unused today in spaceflight trace back to the problems inherent in implementation. One of the realistic methods of creating artificial gravity is a centripetal force pulling a person towards a relative floor. In that model, however, issues arise in the size of the spacecraft. As expressed by John Page and Matthew Francis, the smaller a spacecraft, the more rapid the rotation that is required. As such, to simulate gravity, it would be more ideal to utilize a larger spacecraft that rotates very slowly. The requirements on size in comparison to rotation are due to the different magnitude of forces the body can experience if the rotation is too tight. Additionally, questions remain as to what the best way to initially set the rotating motion in place without disturbing the stability of the whole spacecraft's orbit. At the moment, there is not a ship massive enough to meet the rotation requirements, and the costs associated with building, maintaining, and launching such a craft are extensive.[3]

In general, with the limited health effects present in shorter spaceflights, as well as the high cost of research, application of artificial gravity is often stunted and sporadic.[1][10]

Cr6

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## Re: Weightlessness affects health of cosmonauts at molecular level

2012 New Item: Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner jumps from 120,000+ feet

Was Felix Baumgartner weightless during his ride up into near-outer space in the Red Bull Stratos project? The answer is no, he felt normal weight throughout his ascent. At a height of 128,000 feet (39 km), the force of gravity is only 1% less than at the surface of the Earth. Before the jump, he was held up by the helium balloon and capsule, unlike the free-fall orbit of the International Space Station.

The moment he jumped from his capsule, he was in free-fall and weightless, just like astronauts. He quickly built up speed as he fell, surpassing the sound barrier within half a minute, due to the lack of atmosphere. There was no sonic boom because the air is so thin at that altitude. As he reached lower altitudes, the atmosphere thickened and wind resistance built up, causing his falling speed to decrease.

If you watched the fall, you probably noticed he started tumbling. The force of the thin atmosphere caused him to become unstable. As the air got thicker, he was able to balance himself against the wind like an ordinary skydiver. When he reached terminal velocity (about 100 MPH as he got closer to sea level), he felt normal weight because the force of wind resistance balanced the force of gravity.

For a technical description of Baumgartner's jump, see the Wolfram Blog Falling Faster than the Speed of Sound.

http://blog.wolfram.com/2012/10/24/falling-faster-than-the-speed-of-sound/
http://ataridogdaze.com/weightless/outer-space.shtml

Cr6

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## Re: Weightlessness affects health of cosmonauts at molecular level

Mars at the boundary between darkness and daylight.
Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Author: Kevin FongKevin Fong
opinion
02.11.14
06:30 am

We’ve imagined sending people to Mars since well before Gagarin’s first spaceflight. Wernher von Braun, principal architect of the Saturn V launcher that delivered Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the Moon, envisaged 1965 as the date on which the first humans might arrive at Mars. Since then, more than a thousand different technical studies have been conducted, most of them making the assumption that Mars lay little more than 20 years in the future.

But that is where Mars has remained: always in our future.

Space is not a single destination. Earth orbit, the Moon, and Mars involve very different voyages and challenges. Since the dangers were more immediate and dramatic for earlier missions – catastrophic explosions that no one could hope to survive – the ability of the human body to adapt to the extremes of terrestrial environments was largely irrelevant.

Mars, however, presents a challenge of a different scale and character: It’s more a marathon than a sprint. Here the absence of gravitational load takes on a new dimension, transforming from a novelty into a creeping threat, because life on Earth has evolved over the past three and a half billion years in an unchanging gravitational field. In that context, it shouldn’t be a surprise that so much of our physiology appears to be defined by – or dependent upon – gravity.

Take gravity away, and our bodies become virtual strangers to us.

In our daily lives, gravity is that pedestrian physical force that keeps us glued to the ground. You have to go out of your way – climb a cliff face or jump out of a plane – before it starts demanding your attention.

But we are constantly sensing the effects of gravity and working against them, largely unconsciously.

#### Kevin Fong

[Kevin Fong](https://twitter.com/Kevin_Fong) is a doctor of medicine who also holds degrees in astrophysics and engineering. He is an honorary senior lecturer in physiology at University College London as well as founder and co-director of its Centre for Altitude, Space, and Extreme environment medicine. Fong worked with NASA’s Human Adaptation and Countermeasures Office at Johnson Space Centre in Houston and the Medical Operations Group at Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral.

Without the quadriceps, buttocks, calves, and erector spinae that surround the spinal column and keep it standing tall, the pull of gravity would collapse the human body into a fetal ball and leave it curled close to the floor. These muscle groups are sculpted by the force of gravity, in a state of constant exercise, perpetually loaded and unloaded as we go about our daily lives. That's why the mass of flesh that constitutes the bulk of our thighs and works to extend and straighten the knee are the fastest-wasting group in the body.

In experiments that charted the changes in the quadriceps of rats flown in space, more than a third of the total muscle bulk was lost within nine days.

Our bones, too, are shaped by the force of gravity. We tend to think of our skeleton as pretty inert – little more than a scaffold on which to hang the flesh or a system of biological armor. But at the microscopic level, it is far more dynamic: constantly altering its structure to contend with the gravitational forces it experiences, weaving itself an architecture that best protects the bone from strain. Deprived of gravitational load, bones fall prey to a kind of space-flight-induced osteoporosis. And because 99 percent of our body’s calcium is stored in the skeleton, as it wastes away, that calcium finds its way into the bloodstream, causing yet more problems from constipation to renal stones to psychotic depression.

Medical students remember this list as: “bones, stones, abdominal groans, and psychic moans”.

The biological adaptations to gravity don’t stop there. When we’re standing up, our heart, itself a muscle pump, has to work against gravity, pushing blood vertically in the carotid arteries that lead away from our heart toward our brain. When deprived of the need to work against the force of gravity, the heart and its system of vessels become deconditioned – slowly taking athletes and turning them into couch potatoes.

The system of accelerometers in our inner ear, the otoliths and semicircular canals, are engineered to provide the finest detail about movement, sharing their inputs and outputs with the eyes, the heart, the joints, and the muscles. These organs are not considered “vital” in the sense that they are not required to keep the human body alive. As a result, the essential role they play in delivering a finely calibrated sense of motion is often overlooked.

Like all of the best things in life, you don’t really appreciate what you’ve got until you lose it. Imagine a gently oscillating, nausea-inducing scene from which there is no escape. That’s what it feels like when the organs of the inner ear malfunction. And that can be caused by disease, drugs, poisons, and – as it turns out – the absence of gravity.

The impairments don’t stop there. There are other, less well-understood alterations. Red blood cell counts fall, inducing a sort of space anemia. Immunity suffers, wound healing slows, and sleep is chronically disturbed.

>Deprived of the need to work against the force of gravity, the body becomes deconditioned — taking athletes and turning them into couch potatoes.

* * *

There are a number of formidable problems that accompany long-stay missions. The first is life support. How do we invent a system that can keep a crew of four alive for nearly three years?

For space stations, breathable oxygen requires electrolyzing a steady supply of water. But there is no easy way to resupply a team traveling to Mars, and so a number of ingenious solutions to this problem have been proposed.

One involves a grow-your-own approach to life support and nutrition. It turns out that if you grow 10,000 wheat plants, you can generate more than enough oxygen to breathe while removing the human waste gas of carbon dioxide. Better still, you have a partial source of nutrition. For a while, the Space Center had a team of four volunteers locked up in a hermetically sealed tube, subsisting pretty independently on this self-regenerating, hydroponically grown life-support system.

And that’s all great – until you factor in the possibility of crop failure.

Another solution, discussed at a European Space Agency human space-exploration symposium, would be to grow vats of algae (which might be easier to sustain than wheat and would also provide a source of protein). Between that and the wheat plants, you could get halfway to a diet of pizza-like food – bread coated with flavored algae – and massively reduce the weight and volume of the food and life-support apparatus required for a Mars mission. A Frenchman who specialized in the field of regenerative life support told me how this might work, going so far as to explain the recycling of urine and the use of feces as a source of fertilization.

“You see,” he shouted above the din of the bar, “these people who go to Mars, they will literally ’av to eat their own shit.”

If that hasn’t put you off the trip already, then consider the radiation hazards. As far as anyone can tell, the background radiation we would be exposed to while traveling between Earth and Mars should be within safe limits … unless there’s a solar flare. A solar flare is like a neutron bomb going off next to you. Energetic particles – charged helium nuclei, neutrons, protons, and the like – would pass through our body, wreaking havoc and irreversibly damaging cells. (Lead and other heavy metal coating wouldn’t help when it comes to highly energetic heavy particles.)

Cr6

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## Re: Weightlessness affects health of cosmonauts at molecular level

http://farside.ph.utexas.edu/teaching/301/lectures/node47.html

Mass and weight
The terms mass and weight are often confused with one another. However, in physics their meanings are quite distinct.
...

Where, you might ask, is the equal and opposite reaction to the force of gravitational attraction ${\bf f}_g$ exerted by the Earth on the block of granite? It turns out that this reaction is exerted at the centre of the Earth. In other words, the Earth attracts the block of granite, and the block of granite attracts the Earth by an equal amount. However, since the Earth is far more massive than the block, the force exerted by the granite block at the centre of the Earth has no observable consequence.

So far, we have established that the weight $W$ of a body is the magnitude of the downward force it exerts on any object which supports it. Thus, $W=m g$, where $m$ is the mass of the body and $g$ is the local acceleration due to gravity. Since weight is a force, it is measured in newtons. A body's weight is location dependent, and is not, therefore, an intrinsic property of that body. For instance, a body weighing 10N on the surface of the Earth will only weigh about $3.8 {\rm N}$ on the surface of Mars, due to the weaker surface gravity of Mars relative to the Earth.

Cr6

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## Re: Weightlessness affects health of cosmonauts at molecular level

.
Hey Cr6, Nice set of sources. What exactly happens to human metabolism during long periods in space?

Granted, the lack of gravity is a problem that mainstream has devoted a great deal of effort to understand. We know the charge field must also be a factor. Charge conditions between: 1) the earth’s surface; or 2) earth orbit; or 3) anywhere in the solar system – can vary greatly.

While we might be able to simulate gravity by some ship component rotation, we cannot adequately shield against varying densities of charged particles found throughout the solar system. Perhaps we could reconsider our trajectories through space based on anticipated charge densities. For example, we should limit travel to Mars as much as possible to the solar equatorial plane for the best blockage of high energy solar charged particle emissions.

How might we ensure that we get a good dosage of daily charge?
.

LongtimeAirman

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## Re: Weightlessness affects health of cosmonauts at molecular level

LongtimeAirman wrote:.
Hey Cr6, Nice set of sources. What exactly happens to human metabolism during long periods in space?

Granted, the lack of gravity is a problem that mainstream has devoted a great deal of effort to understand. We know the charge field must also be a factor. Charge conditions between: 1) the earth’s surface; or 2) earth orbit; or 3) anywhere in the solar system – can vary greatly.

While we might be able to simulate gravity by some ship component rotation, we cannot adequately shield against varying densities of charged particles found throughout the solar system. Perhaps we could reconsider our trajectories through space based on anticipated charge densities. For example, we should limit travel to Mars as much as possible to the solar equatorial plane for the best blockage of high energy solar charged particle emissions.

How might we ensure that we get a good dosage of daily charge?
.

That's what I kind of started thinking... if a long journey is planned from Earth (non-moon) -- how to replicate the C.F./Gravity "on-board" for people?  In the Sci-Fi literature, they always mention large rotating traveling space hoops like you say as an artificial-gravity field to keep people from sticking to the floor of the ship and also apparently to let their blood flow/bone growth to occur properly. Now, how to create a localized charge field that comes from the ship's power source??? Is it even possible to create this locally here on Earth?

Cr6

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## Re: Weightlessness affects health of cosmonauts at molecular level

Here on Earth of course charge comes "up" through us from the planet constantly but is augmented daily by insolation. The sun gives us enough energy to survive and thrive.

On an idling, spiraling spacecraft, The sun would either be in front of the craft, behind it, or (far more useful) on one side of the craft proper. But since it's spinning, we have a certain amount of repetitive exposure to the sun - but also a certain amount of blocking as you move opposite the ship's center. So it would be helpful to have that central structure dense enough to block charge, or designed in some way to shadow the "rings" of the ship. This would give the life forms "days" or cycles of exposure, though they would be far shorter than Earth-days, but perhaps the variance would be enough to keep the person healthy.

However, when accelerating, this configuration won't work. Down becomes the direction of thrust, and up the direction of motion. So you can't spin AND accelerate the ship itself. The acceleration would negate or destroy the spinning motion, of course.

So during acceleration, we would need another sort of mechanism or material to balance a person's charge in a similar way, especially in long-term missions.

Jared Magneson

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