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.

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 October 1, 2014 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 October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

French Apple Fans Discover the Apple Watch

French Apple Fans Discover the Apple Watch

AFP (Sep. 30, 2014) — Apple fans in France discover the latest toy, the Apple Watch. The watch comes in two sizes and an array of interchangeable, fashionable wrist straps. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Water You Drink Might Be Older Than The Sun

The Water You Drink Might Be Older Than The Sun

Newsy (Sep. 27, 2014) — Researchers at the University of Michigan simulated the birth of planets and our sun to determine whether water in the solar system predates the sun. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Woman Cosmonaut in 17 Years Blasts Off for ISS

First Woman Cosmonaut in 17 Years Blasts Off for ISS

AFP (Sep. 26, 2014) — A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying an American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts, including the first woman cosmonaut in 17 years, blasted off on schedule Friday. Duration: 00:35 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Water Discovery On Small Planet Could Be Key To Earth 2.0

Water Discovery On Small Planet Could Be Key To Earth 2.0

Newsy (Sep. 25, 2014) — Scientists have discovered traces of water in the atmosphere of a distant, Neptune-sized planet. Video provided by Newsy
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