Do Astronauts Come Back To Earth As ‘Different People?’

Source: NASA

There have been plenty of science-fiction movies and television shows with storylines that featured astronauts never being the same when they return from outer space. Scientific studies and medical examinations over the years have proven that this phenomenon could actually be more fact than fiction.

Mark Vande Hei Spent Nearly A Year In Space

Record-breaking astronaut Mark Vande Hei spent more than 355 days about the International Space Station (I.S.S.) By doing so, he set a world record. This was clearly unchartered territory for scientists and physicians.

Source: Flickr/Thomas Pesquet

Mark essentially became a test subject that would help scientists identify exactly what the human body goes through outside of the Earth’s atmosphere under those conditions. Once he returned to earth, the studies and examinations done on his body proved without a doubt that he experienced major changes. Some of those changes could be addressed by his doctors; others were unfortunately irreversible.

Frank Rubio Broke Mark’s Record, His Body Paid The Price

NASA astronaut Frank Rubio made waves and headlines when he returned from space after spending 371 days beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. Multiple reports confirmed that Rubio landed in Kazakhstan at 7:17 p.m. Eastern Time on September 29, 2023.

Source: Flickr/NASA Johnson

It was only a matter of time before a lot of Rubio’s mobility issues essentially resolved themselves. It may have raised concern when he first landed since he was carried in a chair instead of requesting to walk himself. There will more than likely be more astronauts take a similar trip as Rubio and Vande Hei. Thanks to the studies conducted on those heroic astronauts, the world of medicine and science have more data available for future flights to space

Analyzing The Powerful Impact Of Gravity

To understand exactly how the human body changes in space, you must first focus on the undeniable power of gravity. You may think of simple examples of gravity – such as your feet being planted on the ground in a planet that spins at a tilted angle without stopping.

Source: Pixabay/Omar Sahel

However, you must try to focus on gravity from the aspect of a force that is applied directly to your body for an extensive period. The gravitational force can truly take a toll on the muscles and tissues within your body. This explains why astronauts strive to remain healthy during their space flights and exercise regularly.

How Is The Brain Changed In Outer Space?

The complex roadmap of connected neural pathways and structures within the human body is known as the “vestibular system.” When exposed to microgravity, the vestibular system of an astronaut loses its sense of comfort received from normal gravity levels.

Source: Nasa

As a result, it can quickly shift fluids towards the person’s head. This shift leads to a quick rise in intracranial pressure, which can create headaches and vision loss. There have been quite a few changes in brain structure and cognitive performance within astronauts noticed over the years that specifically connects back to the power of gravity.

Are The Eyes Permanently Damaged By Going In Outer Space?

As mentioned above, the fluid that quickly moves towards a person’s head in outer space can cause a sharp increase in intercranial pressure. This is typically felt within or near the eyes, which could potentially lead to temporary vision loss.

Source: Pexels/Ksenia Chernaya

Optic disc swelling, blurred vision, and other vision-related issues can be attributed to SANS (Spaceflight-Associated Neuro-Ocular Syndrome.) It may seem insignificant. However, the outcome of the condition could be much worse if you do nothing about it. For instance, temporary vision loss could escalate to a permanent status if not addressed in a timely fashion.

Do Astronauts Lose Their Hearing After Returning From Space?

There is a lot of exposure to loud noises for astronauts while they are in space. Depending on the amount of time they spend beyond Earth, the vestibular system could experience a significant amount of suffering.

Source: Nasa

Those who assume hearing loss is an acceptable and expected side effect are incorrect. The vestibular system is affected, but that does not mean that hearing ability is also affected. Studies show that the average astronaut would only experience motion sickness, dizziness, or spatial disorientation for a time.

How The Lack of Gravitational Stress Can Impact Your Bones

Another factor to consider about astronauts forever changed by outer space trips is the impact of gravity on their bones. Since there is no gravitational stress applied to your skeletal structure, an astronaut may experience a decline in bone density.

Source: Nasa

Keep in mind that your body is typically used to standard load-bearing activities and tasks. Without those activities, though, your bones start to lose mass and minerals. This makes them more susceptible to fractures and breaks. Astronauts are trained to focus on specific exercises when in space to help mitigate any bone losses.

What Happens To An Astronaut’s Feet After Returning To Gravity?

The weightlessness of a zero-gravity environment may seem fun and enjoyable to you. However, it is imperative to remember that the condition of your feet may surprise you more than anything else.

Source: Nasa

Astronauts suffer quite a few foot callouses and irritated skin simply because of there not been any substantial pressure applied to their feet while in space. Studies have shown that the shifting of fluid in the body can lead to swelling within the feet and legs.

Are Astronauts Able To Keep All Of Their Muscle Mass In Space?

It is true that astronauts undergo a rigorous training program and tests to see if they qualify to become astronauts. Even with all the exercises and physical training, it is still very likely that they will lose a considerable amount of muscle mass while in space.

Source: Nasa

As most people would know, especially if they enjoy exercising, gravity plays a key role in providing resistance to all movements – especially when weight is involved. However, what happens when you remove weight and gravity from the equation? Without the gravitational force of the Earth, the workload on your muscles is reduced. In addition to atrophy, you will lose at least some of your muscle mass.

How Does The Cardiovascular System Suffer In Astronauts?

A strong cardiovascular system depends on the resistance of gravity to stay in shape. Removing gravity from the equation will decondition your cardiovascular system over time. If staying in outer space for over 300 days, for instance, you run the risk of experiencing a drastic reduction in blood volume distribution and the muscle mass in your heart.

Source: Nasa

These types of changes can make an astronaut’s return home very challenging – especially when it comes to standing up under Earth’s gravitational force. There is specialized equipment available during most space missions to help astronauts stay in space and minimize these side effects.

Does Microgravity Affect An Astronaut’s Appetite and Stomach?

There will likely be changes in the absorption of nutrients, fluid distribution, and the overall digestive process for astronauts returning home from space. These astronauts may feel full even when they have not eaten very much simply because of the fluid shifting towards their upper bodies.

Source: Nasa

This fluid shift will make the average person feel full even if they have not eaten very much. In addition, they may experience cases of bloating and motion sickness. To manage these changes effectively, an astronaut must focus on adjusting his or her diet and monitoring their overall nutrition.

Why Does Space Radiation Affect Astronauts?

Many may be confused by the concept of “space radiation” – especially when you consider the mandated attire of deluxe astronaut suits designed to protect the astronaut from a lot of external factors. However, the best source of protection that one can have from space radiation is the atmosphere of Earth.

Source: Flickr/Kristian Fagerstrom

Once you go above and beyond the protective shield of Earth’s atmosphere, though, you expose yourself to solar radiation and cosmic rays that can boost your cancer risk. In addition, it could damage your DNA. Keep in mind that shielding measures work fine unless you are stuck on an extensive trip – which is where other methods must be considered.

Understanding The Importance of the Astronaut Training Program

It is understandable why the astronaut training program is such a crucial part of the recruitment process. Prospective astronauts are prepared for some of the biggest challenges that they may encounter. The program addresses all the effects of microgravity on the human body and how it changes astronauts forever in a lot of ways.

Source: Flickr/SDASM Archives

Physical fitness schedules are designed to fight against bone and muscle mass loss. You will learn how to adapt to unforeseen challenges and become thoroughly trained in problem-solving techniques and teamwork strategies.  This training starts long before the prospective astronaut is finally able to buckle their seatbelt and fly into space. The goal is to prepare them to take care of their health, perform a wide range of duties, and quickly respond to any emergencies that arise during a space mission.

Why A Thorough Medical Examination Is Essential

Along with the rigorous training program, prospective astronauts must also prove that they are mentally and physically fit for the various challenges that they may experience in space. The exam will highlight their respiratory and cardiovascular functions along with their muscoskeletal condition and overall health.

Source: Pexels/RDNE Stock Project

Licensed physicians will be able to confirm if a prospective astronaut is able to handle the physical and mental stresses associated with the launch, microgravity experienced during the trip, and the reentry process. This examination also serves as a screening process to weed out those candidates that would not be able to perform their duties effectively and efficiently as a team.

Are Astronauts Still Going On Space Missions Today?

There is still a considerable number of astronauts today that follow the space mission protocol. Most simply focus on making a relatively short trip to the International Space Station. Others do their best to transition to other employers – highlighting the work that they did for the space program within their resumes.

Source: Flickr/Rice University Public Affairs

Many do not realize that there is a vast number of resources, reports, and videos that can be used to educate the average person of any age available online. Only focus on the trustworthiness of authoritative websites that base their reporting mostly on facts instead of fiction. Doing so will lighten your load overall and make it much easier for you to focus on your training.

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Charlotte Clad

Written by Charlotte Clad

Charlotte Clad is a brilliant writer who possesses the remarkable ability to craft content that goes viral and leaves an indelible mark on readers. With an innate passion for storytelling and an unwavering commitment to her craft, Charlotte has consistently pushed the boundaries of creativity to captivate audiences worldwide.

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