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The Human Body May Not Be Cut Out For Space

Soulskill posted about 8 months ago | from the until-we-reach-starship-enterprise-tech-anyway dept.

Space 267

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "The human body did not evolve to live in space, and the longest any human has been off Earth is 437 days. Some problems, like the brittling of bone, may have been overcome already. Others have been identified — for example, astronauts have trouble eating and sleeping enough — and NASA is working to understand and solve them. But Kenneth Chang reports in the NY Times that there are some health problems that still elude doctors more than 50 years after the first spaceflight. The biggest hurdle remains radiation. Without the protective cocoon of Earth's magnetic field and atmosphere, astronauts receive substantially higher doses of radiation, heightening the chances that they will die of cancer. Another problem identified just five years ago is that the eyeballs of at least some astronauts became somewhat squashed. 'It is now a recognized occupational hazard of spaceflight,' says Dr. Barratt. 'We uncovered something that has been right under our noses forever.' NASA officials often talk about the 'unknown unknowns,' the unforeseen problems that catch them by surprise. The eye issue caught them by surprise, and they are happy it did not happen in the middle of a mission to Mars. Another problem is the lack of gravity jumbles the body's neurovestibular system (PDF) that tells people which way is up. When returning to the pull of gravity, astronauts can become dizzy, something that Mark Kelly took note of as he piloted the space shuttle to a landing. 'If you tilt your head a little left or right, it feels like you're going end over end.' Beyond the body, there is also the mind. The first six months of Scott Kelly's one-year mission are expected to be no different from his first trip to the space station. Dr. Gary E. Beven, a NASA psychiatrist, says he is interested in whether anything changes in the next six months. 'We're going to be looking for any significant changes in mood, in sleep, in irritability, in cognition.' In a Russian experiment in 2010 and 2011, six men agreed to be sealed up in a mock spaceship simulating a 17-month Mars mission. Four of the six developed disorders, and the crew became less active as the experiment progressed. 'I think that's just an example of what could potentially happen during a Mars mission, but with much greater consequence,' says Dr. Beven. 'Those subtle changes in group cohesion could cause major problems.'"

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The solution may be simple (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46098955)

The solution may be much simpler than thought, Nasa only recruits High performing Individuals these people have a quite well documented need to perform and to be "busy" mentally or physically what they might need is couch potatoes or Mall security guards.

Re:The solution may be simple (-1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 8 months ago | (#46099001)

In other words, they should hire expendable people.

That could solve the problem of where to put those TSA idiots once that job creation ploy can't be upheld anymore. Just put them into orbit and leave them there. Hey, it's not too different from now, they still can feel important and they may even have some sensible use for a change as test subjects.

Re:The solution may be simple (5, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | about 8 months ago | (#46099207)

In other words, they should hire expendable people

It worked for the security team in Star Trek

Re:The solution may be simple (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 8 months ago | (#46099337)

Hmm... didn't the rise of the TSA happen when some Star Trek installation was finally canceled? I smell a connection...

Re:The solution may be simple (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | about 8 months ago | (#46099411)

Making the TSA into real-life red shirts just makes sense. In the Star Trek world, Redshirts were allegedly for security, but did little more than get themselves killed. They were Star Trek's version of security theater! The TSA is our version of security theater. So at least make them useful and blast them into space. They can even have some nice, new, shiny, red spacesuits to wear.

Re:The solution may be simple (1)

ketomax (2859503) | about 8 months ago | (#46099013)

Are you referring to the rambling of this [goodreads.com] guy?

Re:The solution may be simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46099023)

Forget humans, cats were born for this.

Re:The solution may be simple (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46099159)

How about we give the them Jacob Zuma and all his cronies! They'll have enough to do missions for the next 30 years! :P

Re:The solution may be simple (4, Funny)

JustOK (667959) | about 8 months ago | (#46099161)

Phone sanitizers, among some others, seem to be particularly suited this this type of mission

Who would of guessed! (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46098959)

Thanks Dr. Obvious!

Of course humans aren't adapted for space. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46098963)

That is why we need to adapt the environment to our needs.

Re:Of course humans aren't adapted for space. (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 8 months ago | (#46099093)

Indeed. Until then, manned space travel will remain the second best way to explore and innovate.

Off-earth colonies, whether lunar or Martian, would help the evolution of humans better suited for the stress of space.

Re:Of course humans aren't adapted for space. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46099479)

Of course humans aren't adapted for space. That is why we need to adapt the environment to our needs.

Yep. Seems like Captain Obvious has been employed as a headline writer.

Roll on! (5, Insightful)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 8 months ago | (#46098967)

A big spinning wheel shaped vehicle should suffice, albeit full of technical challenges.

Re:Roll on! (4, Informative)

Sockatume (732728) | about 8 months ago | (#46098999)

Dealing the coriolis and tidal forces might be worse than the problem it's trying to solve, unless you have a really enormous centrifuge.

Re:Roll on! (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 8 months ago | (#46099037)

Realistically, long journeys are going to require a really enormous "centrifuge" anyway. Ideally, the entire vehicle will rotate, except maybe the drive section.

Re:Roll on! (2)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 8 months ago | (#46099101)

You'll need accelerometers mounted in various places, and some moveable counterweights along the spokes to adjust for changes in weight balance , preventing wobble.

Re:Roll on! (3, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 8 months ago | (#46099157)

You'll need accelerometers mounted in various places, and some moveable counterweights along the spokes to adjust for changes in weight balance , preventing wobble.

Or you need the ship to be massive enough to where a few humans on one side of the ring don't amount to a hill of beans.

The next step to massive exploration of space is asteroid mining. We can't even build ships big enough.

Re:Roll on! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46099277)

...or a balanced thick layer of stones from the asteroid belt, sticked by gravity. Might protect from radiation, cosmic dust and wobbling caused by moving humans and cargo.

Re:Roll on! (5, Interesting)

Chrisq (894406) | about 8 months ago | (#46099253)

Dealing the coriolis and tidal forces might be worse than the problem it's trying to solve, unless you have a really enormous centrifuge.

Or two modules with a long tether [wordpress.com] spinning round their mutual centre of gravity

Re:Roll on! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46099257)

You don't need a whole wheel or cylinder though, you just need two modules separated by a long cable, then you can spin them around the middle of the cable. That way you can achieve a very large diameter without building an infeasibly large structure. Store most of your water and volatiles in one module, then you can pump a proportion across to smaller tanks in the other module to keep the mass balanced. Just look after that cable!

Re:Roll on! (1)

crtlaptop (1923984) | about 8 months ago | (#46099343)

Or tiny people.

Re:Roll on! (4, Interesting)

taiwanjohn (103839) | about 8 months ago | (#46099035)

I've been wondering why they don't at least do some animal studies on this centrifugal "gravity" idea. I mean how tough would it be to rig a rat cage and counterweight to rotate at some fraction of 1g? Put some critters in there for a few months, and take a control group along for the same duration, and see what happens. It probably wouldn't even cost very much, but could yield some key insights.

Re:Roll on! (3, Interesting)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 8 months ago | (#46099117)

How about a spinning barrel full of monkeys?

Re:Roll on! (1)

some old guy (674482) | about 8 months ago | (#46099121)

It probably wouldn't even cost very much

Remember, we're talking NASA here.

Re:Roll on! (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 8 months ago | (#46099125)

No-one wants to clean up the rat puke.

Re:Roll on! (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 8 months ago | (#46099175)

NASA had such a mission on the cards pre-2010, but it was scrapped.

Re:Roll on! (1)

cyber-vandal (148830) | about 8 months ago | (#46099137)

Like a homicidal AI?

A tethered design more realistic in near term (3, Informative)

Katatsumuri (1137173) | about 8 months ago | (#46099205)

From Wikipedia article on Space Habitat [wikipedia.org] :

Turning one's head rapidly in such an environment causes a "tilt" to be sensed as one's inner ears move at different rotational rates. Centrifuge studies show that people get motion-sick in habitats with a rotational radius of less than 100 metres, or with a rotation rate above 3 rotations per minute. However, the same studies and statistical inference indicate that almost all people should be able to live comfortably in habitats with a rotational radius larger than 500 meters and below 1 RPM.

That would mean a rather massive structure. So, an alternative design that would use less material is two stations tethered together and rotating around a common center. Or a station and a counterweight. Still, this requires a strong tether, which also means additional mass.

This approach is suggested, for example, in this Mars Society article: The Use of SpaceX Hardware to Accomplish Near-Term Human Mars Mission [marssociety.org] .

For radiation shielding, they suggest to use the "consumables", which probably means fuel, raw materials, equipment and water.

Re:A tethered design more realistic in near term (1)

StripedCow (776465) | about 8 months ago | (#46099301)

So, an alternative design that would use less material is two stations tethered together and rotating around a common center.

The best solution, I'd say. Simple and elegant.

Re:A tethered design more realistic in near term (4, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 8 months ago | (#46099331)

Given the amount of (admittedly still primitive; but advancing) work on interfacing with the ear that they've done for the sake of the deaf, would it be too radical to propose surgical modification of astronauts to help them cope with imperfectly simulated gravity?

You'd still need some sort of centrifuge, to stave off all the muscular and skeletal side effects of zero G; but tampering with the inner ear to prevent the subject noticing the various imperfections associated with a fairly small centrifuge might well become doable with small computerized implants in the relatively near future...

Re:Roll on! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46099227)

...wrapped up by a layer stones from the asteroid belt. Might protect from space dust as well.

Re:Roll on! (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | about 8 months ago | (#46099371)

Well, at least we have verified empirically that the "big spinning sphere shaped vehicle" works.

Re:Roll on! -even simpler : a rope ;-) (1)

Herve5 (879674) | about 8 months ago | (#46099469)

On the very earliest Apollo missions, experiments were done with a rather basic rope linking the reentry capsule and the LEM, or the supporting module section, I don't remember. The whole was spun *manually* and with analog devices of course.

It should be simple to plan such a move even with small interplanetary devices, rather than starting with ambitious internal spinwheels.

The only issue in such a case is maintaining a location where an Earth-facing antenna wouldn't move, but rotating around the Earth direction allows such points...

wow (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46098975)

Millions of years of evolution in an environment with gravity has really screwed up our plans for galactic supremacy.

Space or Lack of Gravity? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46098977)

Many of these conditions could potentially be countered by simulating gravity with a rotating space station, ala the movie 2001. It doesn't need to be something that elaborate, but it seems like building a space station to take advantage of centrifugal force is the next step towards a sustained presence in space.

Re:Space or Lack of Gravity? (4, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | about 8 months ago | (#46099041)

That is a good idea in theory, but artificial gravity by rotation has a rather big problem involved: We're not 1 inch tall. Gravity by rotation is dependent on velocity. And depending on how "big" that wheel is, that velocity may be considerably different at the floor and 6 feet up.

In other words, if that wheel is too small and you spin it too fast (to get to that 1g you want), you'd be nauseated to the extreme.

I don't have the exact numbers in my head right now, but I do distinctly remember that the required size was somewhere in the vicinity of "friggin' huge" to avoid such a fate.

Re:Space or Lack of Gravity? (-1, Offtopic)

rvw (755107) | about 8 months ago | (#46099225)

In other words, if that wheel is too small and you spin it too fast (to get to that 1g you want), you'd be nauseated to the extreme.

I don't have the exact numbers in my head right now, but I do distinctly remember that the required size was somewhere in the vicinity of "friggin' huge" to avoid such a fate.

Friggin huge - that reminded me of Friggin the riggin [youtube.com] by the Sex Pistols. This seems to be a drinking song known as Good Ship Venus [wikipedia.org] . How appropriate! ;-)

Spin (3, Insightful)

rossdee (243626) | about 8 months ago | (#46099237)

Long term residence at zero G may be a problem, but we may not need full gravity (9.8m/s2) to be healthy, especially if you don't have to return to earth.
Lets face it, the first planets we colonise have a reduced gravity ( Mars 3.7m/s2 and Luna only 1.6m/s2)

Re:Space or Lack of Gravity? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46099261)

You use a discus thrower layout. Long, slender tube connecting a central massive object to lighter living module. But it's *expensive*, and fragile, much more suitable to a stable orbital platform than to a Mars traveling spacecraft.

Re:Space or Lack of Gravity? (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 8 months ago | (#46099265)

Certainly it is the gravity we miss. We were born and live on a rock in Space.

One of the astronauts in the story likened being in space to hanging upside-down for a couple of minutes.

Keep in mind only a handful of people have even experienced it. Some will be better- or worse-suited for the environment.

The radiation exposure is a much bigger hurdle. Humans will adapt. Babies will be born off-World one day.

Re:Space or Lack of Gravity? (4, Informative)

Katatsumuri (1137173) | about 8 months ago | (#46099273)

The required radius is about 500m, as I mentioned in my other post here [slashdot.org] . The smaller, cheaper alternative is a tethered design.

Re:Space or Lack of Gravity? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46099279)

You don't necessarily need 1g. 1/2g is approx Mars gravity, and would provide similar benefits (would be similar to lots of laying down in real life, which isn't good for you but not as bad for you as 0g, but exercise in higher g chairs could supplement. Also a craft that is constantly accelerating/decelerating could achieve a decent amount of false gravity as well.

Re:Space or Lack of Gravity? (2)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 8 months ago | (#46099447)

No, Mars is about 1/3g.

Re:Space or Lack of Gravity? (1)

StripedCow (776465) | about 8 months ago | (#46099323)

You don't need to make a wheel.
Just hook up two stations using a tether of any length, then rotate.
(Like Katatsumuri already mentioned above).

Re:Space or Lack of Gravity? (1)

taiwanjohn (103839) | about 8 months ago | (#46099325)

Doesn't have to be a big wheel, just use a counterweight (such as a spent upper-stage) at the end of a long tether. I'm too lazy to do the calculations, but even just a few hundred meters ought to be plenty to provide a significant fraction of 1g with a rotation time longer than 30s, at which point the motion would be practically imperceptible.

Of course, a few hundred meters of cable would weigh a couple of tons at least, but for a spacecraft that weighs 20 times that much, it could still be a worthwhile tradeoff.

Re:Space or Lack of Gravity? (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 8 months ago | (#46099327)

In other words, if that wheel is too small and you spin it too fast (to get to that 1g you want), you'd be nauseated to the extreme.

What makes you think we want 1g? Perhaps Mars gravity would be sufficient. Or even Lunar gravity. Till we make the experiments, we won't know.

As to minimum size, if we allow for 5% difference in speed between head and feet, we'd need a 40m radius wheel. Or just a 40m long boom with a pod at one end, plus a short boom with a counterweight at the other end (or a really long boom with a much lighter counterweight at the end - depends on what works out to be smallest total mass).

Re:Space or Lack of Gravity? (1)

TomGreenhaw (929233) | about 8 months ago | (#46099415)

For trips to distant location, rotation may not be necessary. If the ship could simply accelerate at 9.8m/s2 halfway there and decelerate at the same rate for the other half, much of the trip could provide normal gravity without rotation. This only works for trips in the solar system though because after close to a year you would be approaching the speed of light. Does anybody see anything wrong with this approach?

Re:Space or Lack of Gravity? (3, Interesting)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 8 months ago | (#46099431)

According to someone else's comment just above, the absolute minimum size required for most humans to be comfortable is 100m radius and rotation rate of 3 rpm. Going up to 500m radius and 1rpm would make the habitat comfortable for almost everyone.

Sounds like a lot, but we build much larger structures that this all the time here on Earth which are capable of withstanding the forces of storms at sea, battering waves, etc.; they're called "ships". The biggest ones are about 400m long. Something built for space doesn't need to be remotely as rugged as an aircraft carrier, since there's no gravity or other forces to deal with besides those caused by rotation and propulsion, so it really shouldn't be that hard to build something that size if we put our minds to it and actually dedicated serious resources to the task instead of sitting around and debating Creationism.

Obvious. (1)

Madman (84403) | about 8 months ago | (#46098987)

If got had meant us to be in space he would have made us with skin that replaces cells with polarized silicone and given us acid for blood.

Re:Obvious. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46099015)

If got had meant us to be in space he would have made us with skin that replaces cells with polarized silicone and given us acid for blood.

You are just looking for a viable excuse for shooting your mother in law to the moon.

Zero Gravity != "Space" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46098989)

Seems to me like a lot of the problem described could be mitigated by a rotation station.
The problem of having a small group in isolation for an extended period is a problem and the radiation issue seems hard to solve. (But can be ignored for a "short" trip to Mars.)
What I would like to know is what amount of gravity is needed for the related problems to go away/become ignorable.
Is 10% of Earth gravity sufficient? Does most problem go away if you stay in 1% of Earth gravity?
If constant acceleration is sufficient to get rid of the problem then perhaps its mostly an issue for orbital stations.

The human body did not evolve to live on a couch (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46098993)

To be honest, the kind of drawbacks listed for an astronaut living in space seem to pale against the drawbacks of a lifestyle employed by a majority of humans in the retrodeveloping countries.

Re:The human body did not evolve to live on a couc (0)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 8 months ago | (#46099315)

And yet, it has adapted to that environment perfectly [dreamstime.com] .

ties that aren't blue foundation seeks redress (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46099003)

they are up in arms charging the notorious band of 85 with overkill (old vaudevillian offense still on the books) & wardrobe prejudice. no one from the band of 85 has returned our calls,,, ever

war hero 'welcome' homecoming depicts state of disunion http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=scott%20olsen&sm=3

do not forget to check the 'do not use my poop to make (most cost efficient WMD) phosphorous' box on your sanitation service application

as always now; Slashdot only allows anonymous users to post 10 times per day (more or less, depending on moderation). A user from your IP has already shared his or her thoughts with us that many times. Take a breather, and come back and see us in 24 hours or so. If you think this is unfair, you are the only one who cares

That's some bad eyeball squashing (5, Funny)

itsdapead (734413) | about 8 months ago | (#46099017)

Another problem identified just five years ago is that the eyeballs of at least some astronauts became somewhat squashed. ... 'We uncovered something that has been right under our noses forever.'

I'm not a doctor, but if your eyeballs have always been under your nose then I suspect you have a pre-existing condition. Don't blame space.

To be fair, in zero gravity, it's easy to get confused about 'under' and 'over'.

Re:That's some bad eyeball squashing (3, Informative)

JustOK (667959) | about 8 months ago | (#46099201)

To be fair, in zero gravity, it's easy to get confused about 'under' and 'over'.

that's why I usually bet on the spread

Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46099019)

...in fact it's cold as hell.

And there's no one there to raise them if you did.

Re:Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46099169)

Mars... I can't believe I'm back on Mars. Three times before, this place almost killed me. I swore I'd never give it another chance to finish the job. Humans got no business being here. No business at all.

Under our noses? (1)

fatgraham (307614) | about 8 months ago | (#46099027)

That's pretty damned squashed, our eyeballs are normally above the nose.

Pure FUD (1)

morgandelra (448341) | about 8 months ago | (#46099029)

Every time I see reports like this, I am stunned by the myopia of the researchers. Everything that they list can be easily countered using proven technology.

Radiation - Use a NERVA engine to reduce trip times, the extra power you have from the reactor could be used to have more shielding on the vessel and/or magnetic shielding to protect from charged particles.

Zero G - Spin rotation of the habitat, or spin the craft itself with a counter-weight.

Isolation - Expandable habitats give more room per launch than anything else, so you can have room per person and more people to interact with. Think cruise ship versus submarine.

With the current revolution in the heavy lift industry, all of these technologies render the above problems moot.

if we can make it here we can make it there (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46099089)

ask any mom or native elder, we're just getting started & suffering a temporary devolution under attack from MANic viagrant WMD on credit cabals & 'weather' 'gremlins' ;; some still calling this 'weather'? http://www.globalresearch.ca/weather-warfare-beware-the-us-military-s-experiments-with-climatic-warfare/7561

be good sports & good spirits still they (the moms) say the best has yet to come guaranteed. our concept of time space & circumstance has been circumvented as well

Re:Pure FUD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46099139)

Someone still has to research the problems, though. It's not myopia- it's science.

Re:Pure FUD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46099199)

Nerva engines won't fix that, I assume they mean solar radiation from the sun/star/planetary bodies, also the nerve engines are fine for the moon, but any further and the size of the fuel storage needs to be scaled up to the point where it can't take off.

Zero G - Spinning space stations aren't feasible, its been tried the movement of the passenger's disrupts the gravity generated by the inertia rips the device apart you just cant balance it well enough, We just don't have sufficient technology yet, we are close though, carbon nanotubes with their superior mass/weight ratio could be the answer but it may be a later generation.

Isolation, its not the space/ its knowing that there is nothing out there, no way to escape (see experiments done in sound dampening rooms)

Technology isn't there yet.

Re:Pure FUD (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 8 months ago | (#46099233)

1) You don't know what FUD means if you think documented and poorly understood medical issues are FUD.
2) NASA already knows about that technology. NASA invented or is actively involved in much of it. However as they are scientists and engineers, they actually have to build and test things and evaluate their assumptions, rather than just throwing out a hypothetical solution and being smug.

You, sir, are the myopic one here.

Re:Pure FUD (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46099247)

Every time I see reports like this, I am stunned by the myopia of the researchers. Everything that they list can be easily countered using proven technology.

Everything you mentioned isn't used because of decades of research. NERVA -- cancelled by congress. Rotating habitats -- at the extremes of the lift capacity for the US, and costs more than anyone wants to spend in space. Isolation -- more people? So, more food, more everything? Give them more money.

Basically, sure, everything you mention exists, if you give them a trillion dollars. For those who don't live on sci-fi budgets, researchers tend to focus on things that might actually happen.

50 years (1)

jimshatt (1002452) | about 8 months ago | (#46099045)

50 Years is only a short while. So yes, there are challenges, but we shouldn't be surprised that we didn't solve them in such a short period of time.
Regarding the radiation issue. How about we create a magnetic field ourselves? Energy requirements may be too high, I don't know. Just an idea...

The human body did not evolve to live on ships (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46099057)

"The human body did not evolve to live on ships, and the longest any human has been off Land is 437 days. Some problems, like scurvy, may have been overcome already. Others have been identified -- for example, sailors have trouble eating and sleeping enough -- and people are working to understand and solve them. But Kenneth Chang reports in the NY Times that there are some health problems that still elude doctors more than 5000 years after the first sea voyage. The biggest hurdle remains sea water. Without the protective cocoon of the ships hull and atmosphere, sailors receive substantially lower doses of oxygen, heightening the chances that they will die of suffocation. Another problem identified just five years ago is that the eyeballs of at least some sailors became somewhat squashed when hit by a boom. 'It is now a recognized occupational hazard of sailing,' says Dr. Barratt. 'We uncovered something that has been right under our noses forever.' Officials often talk about the 'unknown unknowns,' the unforeseen problems that catch them by surprise. The eye issue caught them by surprise, and they are happy it did not happen in the middle of a mission to Madagascar. Another problem is the lack of stability jumbles the body's neurovestibular system (PDF) that tells people which way is up. When returning to land, sailors can become dizzy, something that Mark Kelly took note of as he piloted the sailboat to a landing. 'If you tilt your head a little left or right, it feels like you're going end over end.' Beyond the body, there is also the mind. The first six months of Scott Kelly's one-year mission are expected to be no different from his first trip to the open sea. Dr. Gary E. Beven, a NASA psychiatrist, says he is interested in whether anything changes in the next six months. 'We're going to be looking for any significant changes in mood, in sleep, in irritability, in cognition.' In a Russian experiment in 2010 and 2011, six men agreed to be sealed up in a mock submarine simulating a 17-month mission. Four of the six developed disorders, and the crew became less active as the experiment progressed. 'I think that's just an example of what could potentially happen during a submarine mission, but with much greater consequence,' says Dr. Beven. 'Those subtle changes in group cohesion could cause major problems.'"

squashed eyeballs (4, Interesting)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 8 months ago | (#46099061)

I have no trouble believing the human eye does not do well in zero gravity. Case in point, I have a bookstand that holds a book upside down, to read lying down in bed. If I read for an hour in that position, my vision becomes all blurred, something that doesn't happen when I read with my head upright or tilted backward at a slight angle.

I'm pretty sure proper vision depends on gravity pulling the eyeball the direction the eyeball is used to to maintain its shape, i.e. down.

Re:squashed eyeballs (1)

jez9999 (618189) | about 8 months ago | (#46099167)

Or maybe just *not* having gravity drag your eyeball the wrong way?

Re:squashed eyeballs (2)

guytoronto (956941) | about 8 months ago | (#46099293)

If you had actually read the article, it's not about gravity's pulling on the eyeball. It's about brain fluids putting pressure on the back of the eyeball.

Re:squashed eyeballs (1)

smpoole7 (1467717) | about 8 months ago | (#46099333)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P... [wikipedia.org]

The brain is intimately involved with how we perceive things. A bunch of experiments have been done, for example (recounted in the link above), one guy wore glasses that inverted everything -- he saw everything "upside down." After a few days, his brain flipped everything the right way!

I can imagine that years with low or no gravity would do far more than just affect the physiology. This isn't just a mechanical phenomenon. It's not just a matter of distorted eyeballs or inner ears. The whole time, your brain is trying to reinterpret what you're sensing to fit what it understands.

Really? What a surprise. (0)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | about 8 months ago | (#46099067)

Who would have guessed that a specie that developed on the surface of a planet with gravity, atmosphere, humidity, open space, filtered sunlight, etc. wouldn't be "cut out for living in space" which involves living in a cramped space in a low or no gravity environment breathing recycled, low humidity atmosphere with artificial light?

Genetic Engineering? (1)

Akratist (1080775) | about 8 months ago | (#46099075)

Given that we seem to be not too far off from a future where genetic modifications, even in humans, will be increasingly common, it seems plausible that we could have a combination of genetics and cybernetics that will mitigate, or even eliminate, the effects of long-term space travel.

Obligatory Move Reference (1)

Akratist (1080775) | about 8 months ago | (#46099085)

And, also, how will they solve the problem of "pandorum?"

Right under our noses (1)

FuzzNugget (2840687) | about 8 months ago | (#46099127)

Another problem identified just five years ago is that the eyeballs of at least some astronauts became somewhat squashed. 'It is now a recognized occupational hazard of spaceflight,' says Dr. Barratt. 'We uncovered something that has been right under our noses forever.'

Was it uncovered while upside down?

Another idea (2)

ketomax (2859503) | about 8 months ago | (#46099143)

The biggest hurdle remains radiation. Without the protective cocoon of Earth's magnetic field and atmosphere, astronauts receive substantially higher doses of radiation, heightening the chances that they will die of cancer.

Why not make the earth itself our spaceship? Once we find another inhabitable planet, dump half the population and continue our quest for space colonization (only now with 2 spaceships).

Re:Another idea (2)

Viol8 (599362) | about 8 months ago | (#46099305)

"Why not make the earth itself our spaceship?"

Essentially it already is. The whole solar system is moving through the galaxy at around 100 miles per second.

Re:Another idea (2)

guytoronto (956941) | about 8 months ago | (#46099307)

Earth is already a spaceship. The problem is, we have no control over where it's going.

Re:Another idea (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46099465)

Earth is already a spaceship. The problem is, we have no control over where it's going.

But we found the climate controls! We just argue over how hot to set them.

Re:Another idea (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | about 8 months ago | (#46099481)

Are you suggesting somehow attaching rocket boosters to the Earth and sending the entire planet flying through space to find another world? If so, there are many problems with that plan. First of all, building rockets that big to move the Earth (but not shatter it to bits) would be a huge undertaking. Powering it would be another huge problem. However, let's assume we're built the boosters and figured out how to power them. We somehow overcome our orbit and blast the Earth out of our solar system. Here's a question: What is heating the Earth? Without the Sun, we'd quickly find the planet turning into an inhospitable ball of ice. I doubt we'd make it out of our solar system, much less to another inhabitable planet. You might be able to solve this by moving the Sun too, but once we get to the technological point where moving a star is easy, I doubt that traveling to another planet will be a challenge.

First sentence sums it all up (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 8 months ago | (#46099183)

"The human body did not evolve to live in space,..."

Why would we expect it to function normally, there?

Re:First sentence sums it all up (1)

StripedCow (776465) | about 8 months ago | (#46099367)

The human body evolved in Africa.
Why do we expect it to function normally, say, in North America?

Why do we even expect the laws of physics to be the same in two different places?

Re:First sentence sums it all up (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 8 months ago | (#46099413)

The human body evolved in Africa.
Why do we expect it to function normally, say, in North America?

Why do we even expect the laws of physics to be the same in two different places?

Because for all practical purpose, Africa and North America are equivalent.

As for the laws of physics, I was always taught that they are the same everywhere, even in space.

Why does nasa never consider submariners? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46099185)

It just always felt odd to me that nasa always focused on pilots. I never understood why they never considered submariners who are an obvous group that has a long history of living and working in relatively small and isolate places similar to space ship or station.

Re:Why does nasa never consider submariners? (3, Insightful)

ledow (319597) | about 8 months ago | (#46099249)

Er... they do.

Notice that most of the problems are associated with the lack of gravity (not generally a problem on a submarine), not a confined environment.

You don't get bone loss as a submariner.
You don't get modified eyeball shapes as a submariner.
You don't get extreme dizziness once you set foot on dry land as a submariner (an experienced one at least)

Sleep loss? Maybe. But saying you can't sleep on a tin box inside an ocean of resonant water where you have to keep absolutely silent is a bit different to a tin box travelling at thousand of miles per hour in the vacuum of space.

In fact, if anything, it's completely the OPPOSITE problem.

Hence why people at NASA don't see these problems coming.

I'm just thankful it's not something more serious and obviously debilitating (if you're going to spend your life in space, bone weakness isn't going to be much of an issue - it's only the return to Earth that's the problem) or the whole "let's life in space" program might have been dead before it began.

Re:Why does nasa never consider submariners? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 8 months ago | (#46099267)

Crew sizes, in terms of the social dynamic and the degree of specialisation/generalisation required.

Re:Why does nasa never consider submariners? (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 8 months ago | (#46099439)

Crew sizes, in terms of the social dynamic

We no longer have crews as small as aircraft crews. Moreover, flights are short, where submarines go out to see for months - more the time scale of current space missions.

degree of specialisation/generalisation required

Most submariners have highly specialized positions on the sub, but are also cross-trained to do another job if necessary. Moreover they're all trained to do important safety tasks like fighting leaks and fires, and for escape procedures.

Unsolvable ones? (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about 8 months ago | (#46099197)

Radiation should be top of the list, unless we develop a somewhat thin metamaterial or something like that that reflects or absorb radiation (in the worst case we could rely on poop [pcmag.com] , but may exist other options) anything that implies long time on space (like a trip to mars, or trying to have self-sustained colonies in space). But if this one can't be solved, that should put an end to especulations about aliens visiting us or we visiting other star systems, ever, same for colonize anywhere else in this solar system, or to keep screwing the only planet that we will ever have in the whole universe.

The lack of gravity could to be solved with rotation, but you probably need something very big or rotating very fast to get something close to 1g that way. Or, for long trips, with acceleration/deacceleration. But may be practical factors that could make this not a solution, and if ends being not solvable, applies the same as the previous point.

Regarding the mind factors, probably are the easiest solvable ones in the long term, our minds adapt to new situations, and we could do a lot to help that adaptation, even if is just playing games.

Mars, Here We Come! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46099239)

I have complete faith that we can overcome all of these problems, and any new problems we discover, to start a permanent research base on Mars in 20 years, maybe 30 years tops. /sarcasm

Reality check: robots are STILL the future of space exploration.

The Human Body May Not be Cut Out For The Ocean (3, Informative)

JabberWokky (19442) | about 8 months ago | (#46099283)

PersonFrom1420 submitted via church door nail, "The human body was not designed by God Almighty to live on the ocean in seafaring ships, and the longest any human has traveled has been close to coastlines. Without the protective cocoon of the coastal fish and shore leave, nautical travelers are subjected to Gout, Scurvy, and a malaise of the spirit that shall certainly result in dire consequence for any vessel attempting to find a new world to explore. In a Royal experiment, debtor's prisons are filled with scum of the streets, sealed away, and their outcome is surely the same as a nautical traveler who looks forward to a new life and possible riches from fruitful exploration. Also, if even one ship has a mutiny, NASA (the Nautical Authority of the Spanish Armada) should instantly force all manned sea faring traffic to halt for over a year, as various Royal Agencies, none of whom understand how to tie a knot, let alone sail a ship, confer over the loss, and consider halting this foolishness to focus on more incense swinging for the plague and merkin production at home. Certainly there is no profit to be gained in these new lands that are worth losing entire ships of human beings over, and there can be no future lands there that will ever be suitable for our children's children. May this missive find you in good health, Signed P.F.1420"

Re:The Human Body May Not be Cut Out For The Ocean (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 8 months ago | (#46099501)

You appreciate that "not cut out for space" is just an attention-grabbing headline, and both summary and article are about how NASA are super psyched to be investigating and attempting to solve these problems?

KISS (2, Insightful)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 8 months ago | (#46099319)

Use the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle - don't send people. Never send a person to do a robot's job.

I hate to say this, because I grew up with the excitement of the Apollo program (you may have heard of it in your ancient history classes), but robots, or whatever you want to call unmanned probes or satellites, have done almost all of the scientific and practical work in space, and for a fraction of the cost of manned stuff. It's hard to think of a justification for manned space travel other than the Buck Rogers publicity or the science fiction notions of humanity surviving on another planet after some catastrophic event on earth. The former is silly - that's why we have sci-fi. As for the latter, anyplace on earth, including the South Pole or deep mine shafts, is a much more benign environment than space. We, or at least a few of us, could survive something like a nuclear war or the event that killed the dinosaurs, much more easily on Earth than on the moon or Mars. We have to prevent a mine shaft gap! (and the prodigious service part doesn't sound so bad either).

Re:KISS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46099433)

Use the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle - don't send people. Never send a person to do a robot's job.

Then why should we send a robot? It is way easier to just observe from Earth. We should invest the resources in telescopes instead.
On the other hand, since we don't have much of direct need for space exploration, why do any of it?

Evolution (1)

sturle (1165695) | about 8 months ago | (#46099341)

I'm afraid those scientists are 155 years late with their findings. Humans have adapted to their environment as explained by Charles Darwin in 1859. We have adapted to live on Earth, not in space or on the bottom of the oceans. This should not come as a surprise to anyone in 2014. To overcome this we have to gradually start living higher up, and perhaps in just a few hundred thousdands years our decendants will take their first steps in the vacuum of space, breathing sunlight and radiation instead of air.

Or we could just adapt the envioronment in the space ship / space habitat. Probably a lot easier..

Human body is also not cut out for a lot of things (3, Insightful)

zorro-z (1423959) | about 8 months ago | (#46099355)

Agreed, 100%, the human body is not cut out for space. Certainly, like all life on earth, we require oxygen, we evolved with gravity, radiation is toxic, and so forth. Our bladders, for instance, tell us that we need to urinate based on a sense that depends on gravity holding urine down at the bottom; without gravity, if we wait until we feel the need to urinate, we need to be catheterised.

BUT... the human body isn't cut out for a lot of things THAT HUMANS DO ON A DAILY BASIS. We're not cut out for flight; we're not cut out for deep water diving; we're not cut out for rapid movement on ground. Yet, with technology, we do all of the above. Absolutely, space flight requires far more in the way of adaptations to protect our (very) frail bodies than air travel, SCUBA, or cars. But human history, broadly simplified, is the story of us using our brains to overcome our manifest physical handicaps.

It's time to fork the human species (2)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about 8 months ago | (#46099383)

Natural selection got us to where we are today, a species adapted for the gravitation and environment of one specific planet. To address the multitude of miscellaneous physiological problems referred to in TFA, we need to start applying intelligent design by developing a series of genetic modifications that will give us a subspecies well adapted for microgravity.

I was thinking about this just there. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46099445)

I was thinking about this just on the way back from hospital, about space and evolution in general.

And I was mainly thinking about the requirements for a creature to be able to fully evolve the ability to be able to straight up fly to space and the energy requirements it would take to get there.
Needless to say it would be immense. I just wish I knew about the biology and chemistry enough to be able to calculate such a thing.

Problem with most life is it has based itself around gravity and activity to Get Things Done in the body.
Evolution is stupidly efficient to levels we never even realized 10 years ago, never mind 50 or more. Quite a few things are mechanically controlled in the body, as opposed to just straight up chemical exchanges.
True, we could possibly simulate a bunch with vibration, but the eye problem mentioned is still pretty odd.
Equally there is always that radiation problem until we develop a workable fusion system. And then you are talking getting a productive fusor IN to space. Not going to happen any time soon. The only other method to shield then is by having a lot of mass between astronauts and space, which is also very costly. (admittedly considerably less so than the fusion + EM shield method, which is still fairly theoretical and will likely only stop slow moving radiation as far as we know, then there is the electronics problem and so on. Such a mess)

Has any of these experiments been performed in a rotating section to simulate gravity, though?
There are even equations to calculate the required sizes and rotation speeds so that the effects of rotation are barely different from the feet to the head, which normally causes nausea if it is off by even a small amount.
It'd be weird to adapt to at first due to the rotational effects, but if it could work, it would solve so many of the evolutionary problems. Then we just need the solid mass to shield the station.

isolation isn't new (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46099505)

Explorers used to set off in a small group and be trapped for months on end (e.g. ships frozen into the ice) and not freak out. Perhaps Russian and NASA test subjects are being chosen from the wrong population for long duration missions. Certainly, NASA selects for the "test pilot, can-do" sort of person. As Tom Wolfe describes it "I tried A, now I'm doing B, and if that doesn't work, I'm going to do C". These folks are action oriented, and want to always be doing things (and NASA doesn't help.. they schedule every waking AND sleeping moment of the astronauts to get the maximum value out of the asset in space).

While you may not want couch potatoes, you probably do want people who can tolerate long periods of relative inactivity.

black hole machine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46099507)

Just create an artificial black hole to generate gravity and attach it under your spacecraft......

HOW HARD CAN IT BE?

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