Space and health

Here’s a subject I feel is necessary to tackle early on. Obviously if my entire crew gets killed before reaching their destination, there’s not much story to tell. And when I started researching the subject I realized I might have actually overlooked some rather critical issues by glossing it over.

Most of the study on effects of spaceflight on human body is of course concentrated around weightlessness. Since all the numerous health issues it causes I think it’s rather obvious my ship will have some sort of artificial gravity.

Just in case you want to know though, weightlessness causes at least the following issues:

  • muscle athropy
  • skeletal deterioration
  • slowing of the cardiovascular system
  • decreased red blood cell production
  • balance disorders
  • eyesight disorders
  • weakening of the immune system
  • fluid redistribution
  • loss of body mass
  • nasal congestion
  • sleep disturbance
  • excess flatulence

Now that we’ve covered that, let’s move on.The problems likelier to arise during my written voyage are as follows:

  1. Radiation. Radiation causes the immune system to weaken and causes chromosomal aberrations in lymphocytes. The viruses we are already resistant to on Earth might cause us and the rest of the crew to get sick again in space. And obviously, large doses of radiation could cause cancer.
  2. Psychological effects. Being cramped into a large but limited space with a LOT of people from different cultures can and will be stressful. You have to cope with these people because you cannot get away from them. Also, anxiety, insomnia and depression may become issues partly due to above and the fact you’ve left everything you know behind. The latter three are more likely to truoble the first generation more than their descendants.

There are also some interesting little tidbits I found during my research:

Apparently, a very very short duration exposed to the void of space will not kill you instantly if you are reintroduced to normal pressure in a way similar to how deep sea divers are treated. Depending on the methods available this could be rather risky in it’s own accord and I bet it won’t feel that nice either.

You won’t also freeze to death instantaneously because your body heat will radiate away rather slowly.Prolonged stay is really not recommended in either case as there is nothing to breathe out there.

Anyway, in conclusion I must state the following obvious fact. No matter what solutions one comes up with in terms of radiation, the ship must have one heck of a medical center. There needs to be equipment for practically everything from giving birth to dental care to surgery. Also, I’m thinking the medical staff will need to be numerous.

I was going to go further in detail about psychological issues, but most of the articles I found focused on the effects of sleep deprivation ¬†productivity. To me at least it’s no surprise that not sleeping makes you a bad worker. Decided to skip that part until I find articles of more relevance.