There are costs paid for space travel and, apparently, astronauts suffer skin thinning and loss of bone density, as observed once they are re-examined upon their return to Earth. It’s still a mystifying concept as to why, but several conditions, and more recently the skin losing thickness, are plaguing former astronauts due to their visit into space.
Drawbacks such as bones losing density of 2% per month and vision problems are just two of the common problems among astronauts. Professor of Saarland University, Karsten Koenig, has looked into the possible causes outer space travel might have on the skin and why, examining three astronauts for answers.
With the use of very advanced imagining technology, the three NASA astronauts were subjected to tests that showed degradation of the skin. Once they were on the International Space Station (ISS), their skin cells were scanned with the use of multiphoton tomography, that is reportedly much faster and more accurate than the ultrasound commonly used for the procedure.
The device, developed by JenLab, is claimed to provide high-resolution images provided by a femtosecond laser that eliminates the need for a biopsy that would usually require astronauts to cut pieces of their skin to be later on examined. This makes the issue easier to investigate and much simpler to test on the ISS.
Researchers observed that prolonged time in space causes the outermost layer of the skin, the epidermis, to shrink and thin by 20%, when all three astronauts were examined before and after they returned home. The cause, however, remains a mystery.
In the first stage of the skin’s degradation, the study stated that upon entering space, the skin begins to produce high amounts of collagen, which leads to the surface essentially shrinking, though no official reason has been disclosed as to why.
It’s one of the many hazards that astronauts face while entering and living in the International Space Station, so further research is required in order to make their travels as safe as possible. With the use of multiphoton tomography, future astronauts might be able to better understand the effects of outer space on the human body.
It is crucial that NASA gathers as much information as possible in regards to a human’s health and limitations, considering their plan on sending people to Mars is still on its way.
By 2030, when the space program intends to understand if colonization of the Red Planet is possible, health concerns need to be prioritized before we embark upon another adventure that will deserve its own page in human history.
Image source: spaceflightinsider.com