Choose two risks for space travel in the gravity section of RIDGE. 1.Read Space article
2. Focus on the “RIDGE” acronym Risks and solution section .
1.Read Space article
2. Focus on the “RIDGE” acronym Risks and solution section .
3. Choose two risks for space travel in the gravity section of RIDGE. Write your explanation of why these may develop in prolonged space missions to Mars .
4. Write how you can relate NASA’s description of mitigating solutions to your chosen potential risk factors to nursing interventions for patients on bedrest.
5. Kindly use full sentences in your response..
What happens to the human body in space?
For over 50 years, NASA’s Human Research Program (HRP) has studied what happens to the
human body in space. Researchers are using what they learn to design procedures, devices, and
strategies to keep astronauts safe and healthy throughout their missions.
NASA engineers use the lessons learned to better design spacecraft and improve the fit and
functions of spacesuits. The research also aids in the development and assessment of medical
standards, physical fitness programs and standards, physiological and psychological adaptation
training, sensorimotor training, and nutritional health protocols.
Understanding the effects of spaceflight on humans is essential as astronauts move from the
International Space Station in low-Earth orbit to deep space destinations on and around the
Moon, and beyond. With the Artemis program, NASA will land the first woman and next man on
the Moon using innovative technologies to explore more of the lunar surface than ever before,
gathering new data while keeping astronauts healthy and safe.
Caption: NASA astronaut Christina Koch pauses as she helps replace equipment on the International Space Station. She and her
fellow astronauts face a suite of health effects while in space. Credits: NASA
NASA is particularly interested in investigating how the body reacts to long-duration spaceflight
as the agency plans for extended missions on the Moon and Mars. Scott Kelly and Christina
Koch were the first American astronauts to spend nearly one year in space onboard the space
station, twice the previous average. Scott, Christina, and six other astronauts have spent more
than 200 days in space during a single spaceflight.
In addition to spending almost a year in space, Scott was involved in the unique Twins Study.
Scott participated in several biomedical studies onboard the space station while his identical twin
brother, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, stayed on Earth as a control subject, someone who
provides a basis of comparison. The study provided valuable data about what happened to Scott,
physiologically and psychologically, as compared to his brother Mark. Their contribution to
science helped generate data that researchers will use for decades to come.
NASA is planning more dedicated extended-duration research on the space station. The studies
are expected to shed light on how the body adapts to living in the spaceflight environment for
various longer time periods, which will be pivotal for future deep space missions.
What exactly happens to the body in space and what are the risks? Are the risks the same for
astronauts who spend six months on the space station versus those who may be away on a Mars
mission for years? The simple answer is “no.” NASA is researching risks for Mars missions
which are grouped into five human spaceflight hazards related to the stressors they place on the
body. These can be summarized with the acronym “RIDGE,” short for Space Radiation,
Isolation and Confinement, Distance from Earth, Gravity fields, and Hostile/Closed
1. Space Radiation
On Earth, we are shielded by the planet’s magnetic field and atmosphere from the majority of
particles that make up the space radiation environment. Even so, everyone on Earth is exposed to
low levels of radiation every day, from the food we eat to the air we breathe. In space, astronauts
are exposed to varied and increased levels of radiation that are different from those on Earth.
Three major sources contribute to the space radiation environment: particles trapped in Earth’s
magnetic field, solar energetic particles from the Sun, and galactic cosmic rays. A big challenge
in reducing the risks of radiation exposure is that some space radiation particles (especially
galactic cosmic rays) are difficult to shield against. Exposure to increased radiation can be
associated with both short- and long-term health consequences, depending on how much total
radiation astronauts experience and the time frame in which they experience that exposure.
Increased risk of cancer and degenerative diseases, such as heart disease and cataracts, have been
observed in human populations exposed to radiation on Earth. Health risks for astronauts from
radiation exposure in space are mainly driven by long-term impacts. Additionally, animal and
cellular research indicate that the type of radiation in the space environment has a larger impact
on health outcomes compared to the radiation experienced on Earth. Not only will astronauts be
exposed to more radiation in space than on Earth, but the radiation they are exposed to could
pose increased risks.
Caption: Inside the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory, where researchers study the effects of simulated cosmic rays on biological
specimens. Credits: NASA
The Key: The current strategy to reduce the health risks of space radiation exposure is to
implement shielding, radiation monitoring, and specific operational procedures. Compared to
typical six-month space station missions, later Moon and Mars missions will be much longer on
average. Consequently, the total amount of radiation experienced and associated health risks may
increase. NASA is developing new radiation detectors to monitor and characterize the radiation
environment, which will provide better estimates of the dose and type of radiation to which the
crews are exposed. Scientists and engineers are optimizing and implementing operational
procedures that use available vehicle stowage and materials to reduce radiation exposure
effectively. To investigate the health risks of space radiation exposure beyond low-Earth orbit,
NASA supports research that analyzes the biological effects of simulated cosmic rays at ground-
based research facilities. Research at these facilities helps NASA understand and reduce the risk
of space radiation, ensure proper measurement of the doses that astronauts receive on the space
station and in future spacecraft, and develop advanced materials that improve radiation shielding
for future missions. Studies of radiation-exposed human cohorts are also being conducted to
estimate the health risks in populations relevant to astronauts.
2. Isolation and Confinement
Expedition crews selected for a stay onboard the space station are carefully chosen, trained, and
supported to ensure they will be able to work effectively as a team for the duration of their six to
12-month missions. Crews for a Moon or Mars mission will undergo even more careful
assessment, selection, and preparation since they will travel farther and potentially for longer
than previous humans in an isolated and confined environment, with only a few other people.
Additionally, crews will likely be international and multi-cultural, making cross-cultural
sensitivity and team dynamics paramount to mission success. Ensuring astronauts get quality
sleep is also important; otherwise, their internal biological clocks, or circadian rhythm, might be
altered by factors like different dark and light cycles, a small and noisy environment, the stress of
prolonged isolation and confinement, and a 37-minute extended day on Mars. It is important to
prepare for the fatigue astronauts may experience during spaceflight, given that there will be
times with heavy workloads and shifting schedules. To prevent crew boredom, NASA considers
the kinds of activities in which the astronauts will participate during a multi-year round trip to
Mars. Communication and understanding among crew members are vital to the success of the
mission, and changes in morale and motivation are possible as the mission unfolds. This may
relate to reduced stimulation, the longing for loved ones, or feeling unable to assist with family
emergencies back on Earth, regardless of how long the mission lasts. Using spaceflight analogs
on Earth, NASA’s research has revealed that both the duration and type of confined and isolated
experience are important to consider. The more restricted the space, and the less contact with
people outside the environment, the more likely humans are to develop behavioral or cognitive
conditions or psychiatric disorders.
Figure Caption: NASA astronaut Christina Koch begins Veg-PONDS-02 experiment on the space station’s vegetable production
systems called Veggie. Credits: NASA/David Saint-Jacques
The Key: NASA has been studying people in isolated and confined environments for years, and
has developed methods and technologies to counteract possible problems. NASA scientists are
using devices, such as actigraphy, that help assess and improve sleep and alertness by recording
how much people move and how much ambient light is around them. New lighting, spurred by
the development of Light-Emitting Diode (LED) technology, is used on the space station to help
align astronaut’s circadian rhythms and to improve sleep, alertness, and performance. A 10-
minute self-test of vigilance and attention assesses the effect of fatigue on performance.
Astronauts write in journals as a safe place to vent frustrations and provide researchers a tool to
study behavioral issues that are on the minds of crew members who are living and working in
isolation and confinement. Researchers are also looking into using virtual reality to simulate
relaxing environments to help improve the mood of crews in isolation. Engaging in relevant,
meaningful activities, including learning a language or learning new medical skills, could help
ward off depression and boost morale. Crews may even tend to a space garden, which could have
positive behavioral health benefits in addition to providing a fresh source of food and helping to
purify the air. Researchers are using Earth-based analogs to investigate how much privacy and
living space will be needed on longer missions where crew members will be restricted in a
relatively small spacecraft together. NASA is also determining strategies to formulate the best
crew by studying individual and team attributes, composition, and dynamics.
3. Distance from Earth
The space station orbits 240 miles above Earth. The Moon is 1,000 times farther from Earth than
the space station. In contrast, Mars is on average 140 million miles from Earth. With a
communication delay of up to 20 minutes one-way while on Mars, astronauts must be able to
solve problems and identify solutions as a team without help from NASA’s mission control. The
types of food and medicine to be packed for a multi-year trip without access to a grocery store or
pharmacy are also important to consider. Unlike space station crews, which regularly receive
supplies from cargo flights from Earth, astronauts going to Mars will have to bring all of the
food, equipment, and medical supplies they need.
Caption: NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn performs an ultrasound scan on Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. Credits: NASA
The Key: NASA is using its human spaceflight experience on the space station to figure out
what types of medical events happen in space over time and what types of skills, procedures,
equipment, and supplies are needed so that they will have a good idea of what to pack for future
missions to the Moon and Mars. Space station astronauts already receive medical training before
and during space missions that teach them how to respond to health problems as they arise. For
example, astronauts learn how to use onboard space station equipment to produce an intravenous
(IV) solution from purified water, which can be used for medical administration. Crew members
also perform ultrasound scans on each other to monitor organ health. If one crew member
becomes sick during the mission, crews are ready to perform laboratory testing to help make the
right diagnosis and guide treatment. NASA is working on developing a medical data architecture
for spacecraft that enables the capabilities of clinical decision support tools, which could use
artificial intelligence and machine learning to further help diagnose and treat various illnesses.
Researchers are also looking into the role that virtual assistants could play to help crews identify
and respond to spaceflight anomalies quickly for more distant missions. Additionally, the agency
is studying and improving food formulation, processing, packaging, and preservation systems to
ensure the nutrients remain stable and the food remains acceptable for years. Space-resilient
medications and packaging systems that preserve the integrity of pharmaceuticals for long-
duration missions are another significant part of NASA’s research.
4. Gravity Fields
Astronauts will encounter three different gravity fields on a Mars mission. On the six-month trek
between the planets, crews will be weightless. While living and working on Mars, crews will be
in approximately one-third of Earth’s gravity. Finally upon returning home, crews will have to
readapt to Earth’s gravity. Transitioning from one gravity field to another is trickier than it
sounds. It affects spatial orientation, head-eye and hand-eye coordination, balance, and
locomotion, with some crew members experiencing space motion sickness. Landing a spacecraft
on Mars could be challenging as astronauts adjust to the gravity field of another celestial body.
When shifting from weightlessness to gravity, astronauts may experience post-flight orthostatic
intolerance where they are unable to maintain their blood pressure when standing up, which can
lead to lightheadedness and fainting. NASA has learned that without Earth’s gravity affecting the
human body, weight-bearing bones lose on average 1% to 1.5% of mineral density per month
during spaceflight. After returning to Earth, bone loss might not be completely corrected by
rehabilitation; however, their risk for fracture is not higher. Without the proper diet and exercise
routine, astronauts also lose muscle mass in microgravity faster than they would on Earth.
Moreover, the fluids in the body shift upward to the head in microgravity, which may put
pressure on the eyes and cause vision problems. If preventive or countermeasures are not
implemented, crews may experience an increased risk of developing kidney stones due to
dehydration and increased excretion of calcium from their bones.
NASA astronaut Steve Swanson exercises on the Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill (COLBERT).
The Key: By analyzing how the body changes in weightlessness and after returning to Earth’s
gravity, NASA is developing protective measures against these changes for a Mars mission.
Functional task testing is in place to help detect and improve balance control after landing on a
gravitational surface. Fine motor skills testing is done to detect any changes in the ability of
astronauts to interact with computer-based devices. Distribution of the fluids in the body is
closely monitored to help evaluate any connection to changes in vision. Compression cuffs worn
on the thighs help keep the blood in the lower extremities to counteract those fluid shifts. A
lower-body negative pressure device could help draw fluids from the head into the legs as well.
Back pain, which some astronauts have reported experiencing during spaceflight, is monitored
by obtaining spinal ultrasounds. Muscle size and bone density are assessed for deterioration
using MRI and high-resolution imaging techniques, before and after flight. Crew members
perform periodic fitness self-evaluations to help researchers better understand the decline in heart
function that can occur during spaceflight. Medicines that NASA is studying, such as potassium
citrate, may help combat the physiological change that could increase the risk of developing
kidney stones. Bisphosphonate medications have been shown in NASA studies to be effective in
preventing bone loss. NASA has also designed an efficient way to collect and measure how
much urine a crew member produces in space, which is essential to human research since it
reveals key information about a person’s health. For example, researchers can analyze different
levels of certain substances in an astronaut’s urine to determine whether they are at risk of
developing a kidney stone in space, and make modifications to the diet, exercise routine, and
water intake as preventive measures. Aerobic and resistive exercise has been shown to keep the
heart healthy, bones and muscles strong, the mind alert, as well as maintain a more positive
outlook, and may even help with balance and coordination. Software-generated workout partners
could be used to help motivate astronauts to exercise regularly for longer space missions. NASA
has even completed a joint Earth-based bed rest study to determine whether centrifuge artificial
gravity may be an effective way to counter the physiological effects of weightlessness.
5. Hostile/Closed Environments
NASA has learned that the ecosystem inside the spacecraft plays a big role in everyday astronaut
life in space. Microbes can change characteristics in space, and micro-organisms that naturally
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