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Home / Science / The former NASA expert warns of "magical thinking" when sending crews into space

The former NASA expert warns of "magical thinking" when sending crews into space



When NASA sets up a manned mission into the Mars system in the 2030s or explores the moon even earlier, a former head of aviation medicine at the Johnson Space Center has some important news: not so fast.

Astronauts will face real real biomedical risks in space, especially long-term missions, said Jim Logan, who resigned from NASA in 2012.

Many risks have already been identified because they were investigated by crew members aboard the International Space Station. he said – loss of bone density, loss of muscle mass, including the heart muscle, changes in the immune system and many other effects caused by the almost weightless environment.

The biomedical challenges of weightlessness are significant, Logan said, especially considering that there are no known technologies, or even considered, as people prepare for longer trips in deep space.

Scientists are now well aware of cosmic and solar radiation When humans venture beyond the Earth's magnetic field, they will cherish people.

However, there are likely to be many other biomedical challenges that the best minds in the world have not even thought up.

"What We Learned in 57 Years Human Space Flight is that you can do anything you want during short missions as long as you take the environment with you and your crews are adequately trained," Logan said in a telephone interview on Monday Dallas.

"But as the missions get longer ̵

1; up to six months and longer – life science aspects become quite significant, and once you start talking about the interplanetary flight, it's a whole new ballgame." [19659009] Body in Space

Logan is familiar with these aspects of the life sciences after spending 22 years in Houston for astronauts and their families, the medical facility is now designing aboard the space station and "much strategic thinking about the upcoming interplanetary phase of human exploration". do.

And on Tuesday evening, August 7, he will be giving a free public presentation on the biomedical challenges of space missions at the Virginia Air & Space Center in downtown Hampton

He will appear at 19:30 as part of the Sigma Lecture series sponsored by the NASA Langley Research Center.

Doris Hamill, physicist at NASA Langley, suggested Logan for the series.

"Some of the toughest challenges people face, Space exploration is not about technical challenges, but about human health and performance issues," said Hamill on Monday.

Even before the astronaut John Glenn made his historic three-train journey around the planet in 1962, doctors were afraid of weightlessness – he could not speak, hear, see, swallow or even think straight. Glenn proved that they were wrong, every test they gave him in his capsule.

But from the earliest days of space travel, Hamill notes, medical observers have noticed changes in the human body adapting to the new environment of space

Some changes were "quite serious and worrying," she said they were not publicly shared because they are considered private medical information.

In 2015, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly agreed on Very Public and nearly a year aboard the space station, allowing scientists and physicians to learn about the effects of microgravity on their physiology and psychology and compare his data with those of his identical twins astronaut Mark Kelly, who remained on Earth.

In addition to the expected loss of bone and muscle mass, Scott Kelly grew two centimeters and 7 percent of his DNA changed.

This, after almost a year in almost zero gravity.

"So, as you start thinking about the interplanetary flight and eight months of transit to Mars and another eight months back, and another 500 days on the Martian surface," said Logan, "that becomes quite significant."

Severity [19659010] Gravity is so important to human health, Logan said he should join the list of environmental parameters necessary for space travel, similar to cabin pressure, water and food.

"What you do not want is that you do not want to send healthy astronauts on their way to Mars, and when they get to Mars, they have the bones and muscle mass of a 70-year-old," he said

The Martian surface has about a third of Earth's gravity; the lunar surface, about one-sixth.

One solution might be a Japanese experiment that was promising onboard the space station: mice placed in a centrifuge for a short time each day lost less bone and muscle than mice that were not treated with the G-force Treatment treated.

But how important is a form of gravity therapy for people in space? No one knows for sure, Logan said, and that's actually the point.

"This is the 57th year of human space flight, and one of the things we should have figured out in the beginning and do not yet know is what is the 'gravity recipe," Logan said. "We do not know the dose, we we do not know the frequency and we do not know the side effects. "

And should we conclude that the gravity requirement for earthlings is greater than what Mars has to offer, he said," it is unlikely that the moon or the Mars will ever be a civilization goal for humans – at least not for the next 100 years or so, "when technologies could evolve to develop a kind of" magic bullet. "19659026] Intelligence test

The biggest hurdle for space missions, however, remains the deadly space radiation, a challenge at which NASA and others work.

The hurdle is not insignificant: Once beyond Earth … 5-11-en.html Humans are hit with a constant radiation dose about 180 times heavier than on Earth's surface

"Space is actually misnamed," said Logan. "The term 'space' implies that it is a vast, benign nothing, but in reality, space is a continuous, seething, billowing cauldron of highly dangerous ionizing radiation."

Logan says that he is not against the exploration of outer space. Not so far away.

"I'm not a naysayer," said Logan. "I've devoted my entire career to human space flight, I'm a believer, people have to be in space, but you have to do that in an intelligent way."

So far, he said space engineers and astronauts do not seem to take their concerns as seriously as himself.

"Astronauts do not want to say that would stop the astronauts from flying on a mission – especially on Mars," Logan said. "They do not want to be held back.

" I have informed astronauts about the radiation problems and they look at me and they say, "This is all well and good, but if I have a chance to go to Mars I want to do it . "

" I admire their bravery, I really do, honestly, but that does not help our long-term perspective to turn mankind into a heavenly civilization. "

The path to a successful interplanetary species, he said, is to avoid the "magic thinking" of Buck Rogers – the landing of 1,000 colonists, for example, on Mars – and face reality.

"Sometimes the reality is hard to swallow," Logan said. "But if you know what reality is, if you really hear it, reality can show you the way forward."

Above all, the first 50 years of spaceflight are a technical challenge, he said. In the next 50 years, it's all about the life sciences.

"Space is really an intelligence test for the species," he said. "And the problem is, do we have the right stuff to make the transition between earthly civilization and a heavenly civilization, and that judgment is not there yet."

Contact Dietrich at 757-247-7892 or tdietrich@dailypress.com Follow Twitter at DP_Dietrich [19659066]
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