Is it dangerous for a person to stay in space for a long time? A new study has revealed some interesting data

June 9, 2023  18:32

A long stay in space can negatively affect the health of astronauts։ a new study has shown that if a person spends six months or more in space, it has a certain effect on his brain and general physical condition, so it is recommended to take a break of at least three years before the next flight.

The study authors scanned the brains of 30 astronauts before their two-week, six-month and one-year spaceflights. The astronauts were also scanned after returning home, and the two results were compared. As it turned out, astronauts who spent more than six months on the International Space Station had noticeably enlarged brain cavities, the areas of the brain filled with cerebrospinal fluid.

Cerebrospinal fluid protects and nourishes the brain and removes waste products. When a person is in space, the fluids in his body move and the brain is pressed against the top of the skull, which causes the brain cavities to enlarge.

A total of 30 cosmonauts participated in the research, eight of them completed a two-week mission, 18 completed a six-month mission, and four spent about a year in orbit. Scientists noticed that the degree of enlargement of cavities filled with cerebrospinal fluid varies depending on the duration of a person's stay in orbit. The difference between the first and second groups was the most noticeable, but the difference between the second and third was much smaller, meaning that after six months the growth of the ventricles seemed to slow down. For the astronauts who spent only two weeks in space, the impact was minimal, which is good news for the commercial segment of the space industry.

The 11 astronauts participating in the study had more than three years to recover between missions. However, after each subsequent flight, the scientists observed that their brain cavities grew larger. Seven astronauts had less time to recover between missions, but in their cases the cavities also grew less after successive flights.

Scientists still don't know exactly how long it takes for astronauts to recover, but analysis has shown that the brain recovers to about 55-64% of its initial level 6-7 months after flight. Based on the obtained data, the scientists assumed that the complete restoration of cavities takes at least three years.

The results of this study could be of great importance for future long-duration space missions; NASA, for example, along with partners, is preparing to carry out the Artemis mission, during which astronauts will spend some time on the Moon. Moreover, in the future it is also planned to send people to distant space, including Mars.

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