According to a new study on astronauts, space travel can lead to heart disease. Not many astronauts have traveled beyond the Earth’s magnetic field. This field acts as a shield from cosmic radiation. Astronauts who traveled beyond the Earth’s field risked their heart health in the process.
We’re talking about the Apollo missions to the moon, which happened in the 1960s and 1970s. The study looked at how Apollo astronauts’ heart health evolved, compared to regular astronauts who remained in the low orbit of Earth. What they found were increased cardiovascular diseases in those who traveled into deep space. Mice suffered the same long term consequences, in a similar experiment with exposure to radiation.
The International Space Station project will halt in 2024. As nations and contractors like Space X are looking towards the moon and Mars, they will have to take into consideration unprecedented levels of space radiation. We don’t know much about these harmful radiations, but we do know it affects astronauts.
All in all, just 24 Apollo astronauts who traveled to the moon were exposed to radiations. The rest stayed in Earth’s orbit.
This is the premiere study to observe astronauts who went to deep space versus astronauts who stayed closer to Earth, rather than comparing astronauts to the general population.
Out of 24 astronauts who went to the moon in Apollo missions, eight have died. Half of them were prematurely killed by a heart condition. Other deaths were caused by cancer (30 percent) or car accidents (14 percent). The eighth astronaut to die was not included in the survey, as he died earlier this year.
However, some argue that the number of astronauts is still too small to allow for a comprehensive study.
Other interesting facts about astronauts are that some grew in height, after leaving Earth’s orbit. That fluke can be explained by the lack of gravity.
Deep space radiations are something scientists and astronauts fear because they have little control over them. The best protection available consists of space suits, and we don’t even know all the types of space radiation which could occur.
Space radiations decompose the DNA and also increase the risk for cancer. A hypothetic trip to Mars would expose the human body to radiations from the sun and space, reaching two-thirds of the lifetime limit of toxic radiation.
Image Source – Wikipedia