The human body was built to function best with gravity as a grounding force, but astronauts on a mission to Mars could spend between six to nine months on a spacecraft without it.
“Our bodies love force,” said John DeWitt, senior biochemist who works as a contractor for NASA and focuses on crew health. “Force is what helps our muscles get stronger; force is what helps our bones to stay strong; force is what helps or heart to stay strong by having to pump the blood against gravity. So, when you take that force away, you all of a sudden lose a really important stimulus that’s important for health.”
Exercise has become an important part of providing that force for astronauts on the International Space Station. But diet and supplements could also be key for combating the challenges of a zero gravity.
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After more than 50 years of human spaceflight, researchers know some of the risks posed to the human body in zero gravity. Space motion sickness happens in the first 48 hours, creating a loss of appetite, dizziness and vomiting.
Over time, astronauts staying for six months on the International Space Station can experience the weakening and loss of bone and atrophying muscles. They also experience blood volume loss, weakened immune systems and cardiovascular deconditioning because floating takes little effort and the heart doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood.
Scott Kelly and other astronauts in their late 40s and 50s have also complained about their vision being slightly altered. Some have required glasses in flight.(source)
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