What Happens To The Body After A Year In Space?

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Space is a dangerous, alien environment. The International Space Station has been a laboratory for learning about the effects of long-term exposure to space. Recently, astronauts have returned after spending a full year aboard ISS. Here are the problems they developed – and here are a couple solutions.
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Muscle Loss

The whole point of weight lifting is that muscles grows the more you use it. Well, the opposite is also true. Floating around in zero-g for a year gives muscles almost nothing to do. So they shrink. And remember, the heart is a muscle, too.
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Space Radiation

Above the protection of Earth’s magnetosphere, we lack protection from deadly space radiation. Spacecraft offer only limited protection, and space-walking astronauts have even less. The danger of cancers is real and hard to solve.
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Getting Taller

Just like muscles, bones have almost no load-bearing work to do. If an animal ever evolved in zero-g it almost definitely wouldn’t have evolved bones. One result is that we get taller. Scott Kelley ended his year in space two inches taller than when he blasted off.
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Eyesight Deteriorates

Weightlessness leads to the brain experiencing changes in pressure. One effect of these changes is that eyesight deteriorates? Why, exactly? Go ask Dr. McCoy.
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Inner Ear Issues

Zero-g throws off the inner ear’s ability to calibrate balance once it does have to face 1 Earth gravity. The first days back aren’t easy.
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Puffy Face

Fluid in the body that typically settles as a result of gravity now pools in the extremities. Here’s a before and after view of Astronaut Guion S. Bluford, Jr.- after a lot less than a year in space.
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Thinning Bone

A year in micro-gravity requires exercise – lots of it. Otherwise, the human body loses 12% of its bone mass. Luckily, there are ways to address these problems:
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Radiation Shielding

Space science continues to respond to all challenges. Here, Robert Bigelow lays out the features of Bigelow Aerospace’s Olympus BA-2100 inflatable space habitat, which has a special radiation-resistant ‘skin’ – including a water layer between the layers of fabric.
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Artificial Gravity

Gravity can be simulated by rotation. It ould require swinging crew quarters around an axis and using centrifugal force.
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Putting It All Together

Together with exercise, astronauts in space-craft featuring rotational gravity and radiation shielding would be able to maintain their bodies in space.
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Solve These Problems

There’s no limit to how large structures can be built in space. Here is a view of a Stanford Torus space settlement. Note that it’s an entire suburb in space, including parks, lakes and rivers.
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The Future Is Unlimited

A Bernal Sphere could be home to tens of thousands of people, located anywhere in the solar system – or beyond. It would be so huge that one would see a vast sky, even to the point of clouds forming.
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