Space tourism is close to becoming a reality with companies like Blue Origin hoping to have passengers as early as 2018. And while the prospect of going into orbit is exciting, there are some serious health risks you should to consider before booking a ticket.
Astronaut Scott Kelly, who just spent almost a year on the International Space Station, shared the physical toll being in space took on his body. “I lost bone mass, my muscles atrophied, and my blood redistributed itself in my body, which strained my heart,” he said in a news release about his upcoming memoir, Endurance: My Year in Space and Our Journey to Mars. “Every day, I was exposed to ten times the radiation of a person on Earth, which will increase my risk of a fatal cancer for the rest of my life. Not to mention the psychological stress, which is harder to quantify and perhaps as damaging."
Though space tourists’ time will be limited, similar negative effects could still cause problems. According to Medical News Today, “gravity affects blood circulation and the musculoskeletal system, among other things” meaning “the effects of microgravity could prevent astronauts, and their bodies, from performing necessary functions in space.” It can also increase the risk of high blood pressure and cardiac arrhythmia and atrophy.
Exposure to radiation, cosmic rays, and extreme cold, like Scott Kelly described, is something tourists would likely have to deal with even for a short trip. According to the article, some studies believe that even one particle of the cosmic rays “has the power to charge through human tissue and destroy DNA, raising the risk of mutations and cancer.”
The close quarters could also pose a problem as bacteria are shared when people are in close proximity, as they would be on a spaceship. Pair that with the fact that immune systems can be impaired, and those with dormant viruses could reactivate.
Passengers could also face motion sickness and disorientation, which “can affect vision, cognition, balance and motor control." For more on how space tourism could affect your health, head over to Medical News Today.