From worn muscles to squashed eyes: the strange effects of space travel

Travel into SPACE can lead to a myriad of negative problems for the human body.

Astronauts who spend time in space face a range of health problems, from heart shrinking to eye problems.

Space travel can lead to a myriad of negative problems for the human body.


Space travel can lead to a myriad of negative problems for the human body.Credit: Getty

Here we have compiled the most troubling effects that space travel can have on the human body.

DNA mutations

A team of researchers examined astronauts’ blood stored for 20 years to study the effects of space travel.

And in a shocking study, they found that the astronauts’ blood showed signs of DNA mutation.

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The space experts explained: “The researchers found a higher frequency of somatic mutations in the genes of the 14 astronauts considered in the study, compared to the statistics for the population that has been in space.”

Somatic mutations only mean an alteration in a person’s DNA.

Although the mutations were not a cause for concern, the researchers suggested that astronauts undergo regular blood screenings.

Muscle atrophy

The absence of gravity weakens the muscles that astronauts use on Earth, but not in space: this is called muscle atrophy.

These muscles are commonly referred to as antigravity muscles and include the calf muscles, quadriceps, and back and neck muscles.

NASA further explains: “Since astronauts work in a weightless environment, very little muscle contraction is required to support their bodies or move.”

“Without regular use and exercise our muscles weaken and deteriorate.”

“Studies have shown that astronauts experience up to 20% loss of muscle mass on space flights that last five to 11 days.”

Eye problems

It is not uncommon for astronauts to suffer from a variety of vision and eye problems.

Most of these concerns arise while cosmonauts are on the International Space Station (ISS) or are wearing space suits.

This is due to zero gravity, which can cause body fluids to build up in the head.

This puts pressure on the eyeballs, causing a condition called spaceflight associated neuro-ocular syndrome (SANS).

According to a 2011 study published in The American Academy of Ophthalmology, other eye problems can range from flattened eyeballs to swollen optic nerves and vision problems.

The risk for these problems is particularly high for astronauts who spend more than six months in space.

A body-sucking sleeping bag that pulls fluid away from the head and down towards the feet is a potential solution to this problem.

Heart that shrinks

Time in space can make an astronaut’s heart smaller, according to a study published in AHA Journals.

In 2021, it was revealed that NASA astronaut Scott Kelly’s heart had shrunk after spending 340 days aboard the ISS.

The researchers were actually monitoring his heart from a distance from Earth when they noticed it was shrinking, despite the astronaut training.

Thankfully, Scott’s heart returned to normal size when he returned to Earth.

Researchers believe that space shrinks hearts because it doesn’t have to pump against gravity.

Space anemia

The effects of zero gravity over time can cause the human body to destroy its own red blood cells.

This phenomenon is referred to as “space anemia” and scientists are unsure why it occurs.

A new study published in Nature Medicine has found that space causes the human body to destroy red blood cells at a faster rate than Earth.

The researchers worked with 14 astronauts over a six-month period.

Their results showed that the astronauts were destroying about three million red blood cells per second.

That’s 54% higher than the average rate here on Earth.

Five of the 13 astronauts who had blood drawn when they landed back on Earth were still anemic.

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After a year, their red blood cell destruction was even greater than in people who hadn’t been in space.

According to the study, the longer a person stays in space, the longer they will be anemic on land.

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