The International Space Station is the most expensive gym membership of mankind.
Since the first days of human space flight It is understood that traveling too far from Earth’s gravity could have a negative effect on the astronaut’s body. Constant weightless buoyancy results in a dramatic decrease in muscle mass, in the same way a patient’s muscles can atrophy if they spend too much time in bed. Without the constant urge to fight, the astronauts’ leg, back, and neck muscles weakened from use in just a week. Although this may not be an immediate problem during space flight. But astronauts who land on Earth in this deteriorating state are at high risk of injury.
Fortunately, this problem can largely be alleviated with rigorous exercise. And orbiting ships that are spacious enough to accommodate human passengers for weeks or months, necessity has enough internal volume to fit basic exercise equipment such as a treadmill or resistance machine. Everywhere since the Soviet Union̵7;s Salyut 1 in 1971 has focused on how to exercise while in orbit. Nothing can replace being on Earth. Because the astronauts still return home weaker than when they left. But it has proven to be the most practical in combating the debilitating aspects of long-duration space flight.
The obvious problem, of course, is that every hour spent exercising in space is an hour that would be better spent researching or maintaining a spacecraft. At the incredible cost of not just putting humans into orbit. But keeping them there for the long term So time truly is money. Which brings us back to where I started: astronauts spend two or more hours each day on various exercise equipment. of the International Space Station To prevent muscle wasting, this makes it the most expensive gym membership in the world.
A good solution is to design future spacecraft that are capable of delivering artificial gravity to passengers through centripetal force. The technique is fairly simple: just turn the craft along its axis. Then the crew will “stick” to the inside of the hull. Unfortunately, simulating Earth-like gravity in this way would require ships to be larger than what humans have ever launched into space or spin at dangerously high speeds. That’s a huge risk for what’s ultimately just a theory.
But a recent report from the University of Tsukuba in Japan could be the real first step in the development of a viable artificial gravity system aboard a crewed spacecraft. Although their study focused on rats rather than humans. But the results likely go beyond that in a compilation of what so far is mostly science fiction content.
Perhaps the most interesting element of “Analysis Transcriptome of the effects of gravity on mouse skeletal muscles under microgravity and artificial in-flight environments of 1 g.” Well, the researchers originally did not intend to study artificial gravity. The goal is to learn more about the muscular atrophy in mammals at the molecular level as it is associated with prolonged space flight. Traditionally, this type of research has been done by sending a group of mice to space for a period of time. or two weeks The muscle tissue was then compared with a group of control mice living on Earth. But the team realized early on. that the experiment was fundamentally flawed.
when there was a control group and an experimental group The idea was for both groups to experience exactly the same conditions. except For those who want to study, in this way you can be reasonably sure that any changes What you have noticed is caused by missing elements. But with the classical approach of studying rats in space. This is not possible
Consider for a moment what our lab rat journey is facing. in the beginning They will be launched into orbit by rockets. It’s not something that happens every day for a mouse. while in space They will inhabit an environmental microcosm that the spacecraft’s life support system is disguised as. And even with a shield will receive some level of cosmic rays at the end of the stay They will load them back into the returning spacecraft and send them soaring through the atmosphere. only to end the test by being immersed in the ocean. meanwhile The control group just sat in a cage in some laboratory the entire time.
This is an experience that can hardly be compared. Some of these elements can certainly be replicated on Earth for the control group. But not with the level of precision required to cancel all elements. There are too many variables to exclude the possibility that they will affect the results of the test. What the researchers realized they needed was some way for the control group to get all the same spaceflight experience in the experimental group. except for spending time in microgravity
Their answer is the Multiple Gravity Research System (MARS), using a small centrifuge. Mouse Habitat Unit (MHU) on the International Space Station It can spin half the mouse at a speed fast enough to estimate the Earth’s gravity. The rest of the rats live on the bottom of the unit. which looks exactly the same This way, the researchers were able to ensure that all the mice in the lab were in the same environment. minus gravity
Still, the paper explains that the comparison isn’t perfect. The control group still spent time in microgravity. Since there is no provision for artificial gravity while they are traveling to and from the ISS on the SpaceX Dragon, there is also a fair amount of time before the rats are removed from the Dragon and transferred to the MHU when they are. it arrived first
That said, both the control and experimental groups went through the same process. So while the control group faced microgravity for a short time, that they had never been through on earth before. But it was also an environment that was shared with the experimental group.
The results of the experiment, which were actually conducted in 2016, are consistent with what scientists have believed for decades. Mice subjected to artificial gravity during their time on the ISS did not experience the same muscle loss as rats under microgravity. In addition, muscle gene expression was found to differ. between rats in the control and experimental groups. This clearly shows that the absence of gravity causes change. And it’s not space radiation as previously thought.
There is little question that creating artificial gravity on the International Space Station is possible. And the fact that it prevents the degenerative muscle loss seen in weightlessness is similarly predictable. However, this experiment provides concrete evidence based on scientific methods. Of course, more experiments are needed to expand our knowledge in this area, but at the moment it is safe to say that rotating the spacecraft will prevent mammalian muscle wasting during long voyages. definitely in space
Explore new frontiers
While scientists can use centrifuges to study the effects of gravity in excess of 1 gram on Earth, there is no way. reduce The influence of gravity in the lab But because the ISS is experiencing microgravity based on its position in orbit. Therefore, centrifuges can be used to produce artificial gravity between 0 and 1 g. This puts MARS in a unique position. Because it allows researchers to simulate gravity on the Moon or Mars. It gives us a glimpse into how the amount of time spent in those bodies affects human physiology.
This is vital information if humanity ever sets up a permanent outpost on the moon or undertakes a crew mission to Mars. The only knowledge we have about the human adaptability of the moon’s gravity comes from its relatively short surface, which remained during the Apollo program. And we have almost no idea how the human body will react to the surface of Mars for months or possibly years.
The research could have implications for future space stations. What if you wanted to simulate part of the Earth’s gravity to make muscles atrophy? Determining the minimum amount of gravity needed to slow or stop the damaging effects of long space flight could make creating artificial gravity much easier than currently anticipated.
at the end of the article The researchers implied that this was precisely the experiment they hoped to do in the future:
Although the current study is possible with state-of-the-art equipment using the environment aboard a 1 g artificial aircraft on the International Space Station But future studies of mammals will examine the effects of long-term habitability under a gravitational force less than 1 g, which is meant to simulate the gravity of the Moon and Mars, also known as the Earth’s Moon. that some gravity As experimental methods for space biology continue to evolve Future studies may identify the underlying cause and offer more precise strategies for preventing muscle atrophy.