Space is not really designed for the human body. Zero gravity has a myriad of effects on us, and it influences everything from how the mind works to the body's circulatory conditions. Zero gravity can even implement changes to the nervous system as well as to bones, at least until the human body returns to Earth.
If you've ever had the dream of becoming an astronaut, you can expect more changes than you actually bargained for, primarily due to weightlessness - and while it's weird, it's pretty much par for the course. The changes are not super unusual, nor are they part of a worse case scenario. They are, however, sometimes unexplainable, which is why NASA and other space agencies are forever testing and studying the effects of outer space on the human body, as mankind hopes to extend its stay in our universe and beyond in the coming years.
To find out what happens to your body while you live your life in orbit, read on. We guarantee these changes are not covered in sci-fi movies.
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You Become Prone To Kidney Stones
As a result of the leaching of minerals from your bones, you'll have higher levels of calcium in your blood. The difficulty of emptying your bladder, combined with the struggle to remain properly hydrated, makes someone in space a prime candidate for kidney stones.
According to NASA: "Therapy options for this debilitating condition are severely limited in spacecraft." So, if you aren't diligently taking preventative measures, you could be in trouble. Kidney stones are notoriously painful. In fact, an anonymous patient who had kidney stones just three months after giving birth told Urology Austin the stones were worse than labor.Is this unnerving and gross?
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You Won't Be Able To See As Well
About 80% of astronauts returning to Earth have reported vision issues, which scientists now refer to as visual impairment and intracranial pressure syndrome (VIIP). It is not known, however, what takes place to cause this, and it's challenging to study on Earth as the situation is almost impossible to replicate.
VIIP is discovered through MRIs and retinal scans. Upon examination, it has been shown that the backs of a space traveler's eyes flatten, and his/her retinas push forward. Gravity, or lack thereof, is an obvious factor, but the exact mechanics of how this happens is still an unknown.Is this unnerving and gross?
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Your Brain Floats Upward Towards Your Skull
It makes sense that without gravity to hold us down, things could shift - and the human brain appears to be one of those things. Researchers have recently discovered that the brain shifts upward while astronauts are in space. That protective fluid that surrounds it equally on all sides on Earth is lessened at that top the head, with the majority of it found inside the brain's ventricles or cavities. This can account for as-of-yet unexplainable symptoms astronauts have complained about while in space, most notably head pressure and vision problems.
Still, more tests are needed, especially as we're planning to send astronauts on more extended missions in the future.Is this unnerving and gross?
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Space Travel Causes Genes To Switch On And Off
Astronaut Scott Kelly has a twin brother, Mark (also an astronaut, but retired,) that NASA used as a comparison in its "Twin Study" to gauge how space affects the human body. While Mark remained on Earth, Scott spent almost a year living on the International Space Station. When he came back, NASA studied the twins and found that Scott's time in space had caused genes to turn "on and off" in a process called methylation.
Dr. Chris Mason of Weill Cornell Medicine and a principal researcher in the study said:
We really see an explosion, like fireworks taking off, as soon as the human body gets into space. With this study, we've seen thousands and thousands of genes change how they are turned on and turned off. This happens as soon as an astronaut gets into space, and some of the activity persists temporarily upon return to Earth.Is this unnerving and gross?