Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Astronaut muscles waste in space: Safety for future Mars missions questioned

Date:
August 18, 2010
Source:
Wiley-Blackwell
Summary:
Astronaut muscles waste away on long space flights, reducing their capacity for physical work by more than 40 percent, according to new research. This is the equivalent of a 30- to 50-year-old crew member's muscles deteriorating to that of an 80-year-old. The destructive effects of extended weightlessness to skeletal muscle -- despite in-flight exercise -- pose a significant safety risk for future human missions to Mars and elsewhere in the universe.

Astronaut Michael Gernhardt is attached to the Shuttle Endeavour's robot arm during a spacewalk on the STS-69 mission in 1995. Researchers recently found substantial loss of fiber mass, force and power in astronaut muscles while in space.
Credit: NASA

Astronaut muscles waste away on long space flights reducing their capacity for physical work by more than 40%, according to research published online in the Journal of Physiology.

Related Articles


This is the equivalent of a 30- to 50-year-old crew member's muscles deteriorating to that of an 80-year-old. The destructive effects of extended weightlessness to skeletal muscle -- despite in-flight exercise -- pose a significant safety risk for future human missions to Mars and elsewhere in the Universe.

An American study, led by Robert Fitts of Marquette University (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), was recently published online by the Journal of Physiology and will be in the September printed issue. It comes at a time of renewed interest in Mars and increased evidence of early life on the planet. NASA currently estimates it would take a crew 10 months to reach Mars, with a 1 year stay, or a total mission of approximately 3 years.

Fitts, Chair and Professor of Biological Sciences at Marquette, believes if astronauts were to travel to Mars today their ability to perform work would be compromised and, with the most affected muscles such as the calf, the decline could approach 50%. Crew members would fatigue more rapidly and have difficulty performing even routine work in a space suit. Even more dangerous would be their return to Earth, where they'd be physically incapable of evacuating quickly in case of an emergency landing.

The study -- the first cellular analysis of the effects of long duration space flight on human muscle -- took calf biopsies of nine astronauts and cosmonauts before and immediately following 180 days on the International Space Station (ISS). The findings show substantial loss of fibre mass, force and power in this muscle group. Unfortunately starting the journey in better physical condition did not help. Ironically, one of the study's findings was that crew members who began with the biggest muscles also showed the greatest decline.

The results highlight the need to design and test more effective exercise countermeasures on the ISS before embarking on distant space journeys. New exercise programmes will need to employ high resistance and a wide variety of motion to mimic the range occurring in Earth's atmosphere.

Fitts doesn't feel scientists should give up on extended space travel. "Manned missions to Mars represent the next frontier, as the Western Hemisphere of our planet was 800 years ago," says Fitts. "Without exploration we will stagnate and fail to advance our understanding of the Universe."

In the shorter term, Fitts believes efforts should be on fully utilizing the International Space Station so that better methods to protect muscle and bone can be developed. "NASA and ESA need to develop a vehicle to replace the shuttle so that at least six crew members can stay on the ISS for 6-9 months," recommends Fitts. "Ideally, the vehicle should be able to dock at the ISS for the duration of the mission so that, in an emergency, all crew could evacuate the station."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wiley-Blackwell. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Fitts et al. Prolonged Space Flight-Induced Alterations in the Structure and Function of Human Skeletal Muscle Fibres. The Journal of Physiology, 2010; DOI: 10.1113/jphysiol.2010.188508

Cite This Page:

Wiley-Blackwell. "Astronaut muscles waste in space: Safety for future Mars missions questioned." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 August 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100817212011.htm>.
Wiley-Blackwell. (2010, August 18). Astronaut muscles waste in space: Safety for future Mars missions questioned. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 5, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100817212011.htm
Wiley-Blackwell. "Astronaut muscles waste in space: Safety for future Mars missions questioned." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100817212011.htm (accessed March 5, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

What's Up March 2015

What's Up March 2015

NASA (Mar. 4, 2015) — A total solar eclipse in the North Atlantic and tips to prepare for the next U.S. eclipse. Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: SpaceX Launches Rocket, Satellites on Board

Raw: SpaceX Launches Rocket, Satellites on Board

AP (Mar. 2, 2015) — SpaceX launched it&apos;s 16th Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida on Sunday night. The rocket was carrying two commercial communications satellites. (March 2) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA EDGE: SMAP Launch

NASA EDGE: SMAP Launch

NASA (Mar. 2, 2015) — Join NASA EDGE as they cover the launch of the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) spacecraft live from Vandenberg Air Force Base.  Special guests include NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, SMAP Project System Engineer Shawn Goodman and Lt Col Brande Walton and Joseph Sims from the Air Force.  No word on the Co-Host&apos;s whereabouts. Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com
Astronauts Leave Space Station for Third Spacewalk

Astronauts Leave Space Station for Third Spacewalk

Reuters - News Video Online (Mar. 1, 2015) — NASA Commander Barry Wilmore and Flight Engineer Terry Virts perform their third spacewalk in eight days outside the International Space Station. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins