Author Topic: Health Risks in Space and Mitigation  (Read 6436 times)

Offline sanman

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Health Risks in Space and Mitigation
« on: 04/21/2016 05:17 AM »
I was reading about the latest findings on mice which went to space aboard Shuttle Atlantis in 2011. They showed liver damage after only 2 weeks in orbit:

http://www.todayonline.com/world/mice-space-showed-liver-damage-after-two-weeks

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/04/20/liver-damage-in-space-mice-raises-doubts-for-human-exploration/

So what might be the reasons for this damage, and what are the implications of this for human spaceflight?

I always thought the main risks in orbit to human health were the muscular atrophy, osteoporosis, and of course some radiation exposure. I've always assumed that radiation isn't too bad below the Van Allen belts, and that it was manageable, barring some solar/cosmic event.

I'd never realized that astronauts came back suffering from diabetes or liver dysfunction. Is radiation the culprit here? Or is it possible that some other influence is behind it? A researcher mentions the possibility of physical stress, particularly during launch and reentry. Is it possible that animals may suffer more damage just from being more terrified in these situations?

What happens if, as more people start going out to space, we find all sorts of damage is occurring that we weren't aware of before? How will it change our plans for space?

How can we lower our risks when venturing out into space? Will it be a matter of taking a drug cocktail or keeping ourselves in stasis while in transit?
« Last Edit: 10/19/2016 07:59 AM by sanman »

Offline Dalhousie

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Re: Health Risks in Space and Mitigation
« Reply #1 on: 04/21/2016 05:31 AM »
I was reading about the latest findings on mice which went to space aboard Shuttle Atlantis in 2011. They showed liver damage after only 2 weeks in orbit:

http://www.todayonline.com/world/mice-space-showed-liver-damage-after-two-weeks

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/04/20/liver-damage-in-space-mice-raises-doubts-for-human-exploration/

So what might be the reasons for this damage, and what are the implications of this for human spaceflight?

I always thought the main risks in orbit to human health were the muscular atrophy, osteoporosis, and of course some radiation exposure. I've always assumed that radiation isn't too bad below the Van Allen belts, and that it was manageable, barring some solar/cosmic event.

I'd never realized that astronauts came back suffering from diabetes or liver dysfunction. Is radiation the culprit here? Or is it possible that some other influence is behind it? A researcher mentions the possibility of physical stress, particularly during launch and reentry. Is it possible that animals may suffer more damage just from being more terrified in these situations?

What happens if, as more people start going out to space, we find all sorts of damage is occurring that we weren't aware of before? How will it change our plans for space?

As usual the media drawing very alarmist conclusions from a very limited data set, willingly aided and abetted by researching after more funds.

"There is nobody who is a bigger fan of sending robots to Mars than me... But I believe firmly that the best, the most comprehensive, the most successful exploration will be done by humans" Steve Squyres

Offline sanman

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Re: Health Risks in Space and Mitigation
« Reply #2 on: 04/21/2016 05:38 AM »
So you feel that grantsmanship may be at work here, along with sensationalism. Gee, I hope so, because it would really suck to be trapped on our one planet.

Offline Borklund

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Re: Health Risks in Space and Mitigation
« Reply #3 on: 04/21/2016 06:04 AM »
So you feel that grantsmanship may be at work here, along with sensationalism. Gee, I hope so, because it would really suck to be trapped on our one planet.
Bear in mind that the diabetes-like symptoms described for returning astronauts disappeared after a while back on Earth, and that microgravity (the culprit) can theoretically be mitigated/solved. This is why we need greater capability for more human research in space (not to mention further into space).

Offline sanman

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Re: Health Risks in Space and Mitigation
« Reply #4 on: 04/21/2016 06:31 AM »
Bear in mind that the diabetes-like symptoms described for returning astronauts disappeared after a while back on Earth, and that microgravity (the culprit) can theoretically be mitigated/solved. This is why we need greater capability for more human research in space (not to mention further into space).

So our liver needs gravity to function? Then maybe even a little bit of gravity per day could keep an astronaut healthy? Sounds like a case for developing a spinning hab.

Too bad there's no way to do microgravity/zero-G here on Earth, other than the brief Vomit-Comet rides, to better isolate the phenomenon for its health effects.
« Last Edit: 04/21/2016 06:33 AM by sanman »

Online QuantumG

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Re: Health Risks in Space and Mitigation
« Reply #5 on: 04/21/2016 09:23 AM »
Researchers can simulate zero-g on microscopic masses pretty cheaply using diamagnetic levitation. Apparently people have done it on whole mouse embryos, but it's expensive.

e.g., http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0273117709005985

Superconducting systems could be scaled up to human size, but it'd probably be cheaper just to fly :)
« Last Edit: 04/21/2016 09:26 AM by QuantumG »
Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? The slowest possible.

Offline A_M_Swallow

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Re: Health Risks in Space and Mitigation
« Reply #6 on: 04/21/2016 12:44 PM »
I was reading about the latest findings on mice which went to space aboard Shuttle Atlantis in 2011. They showed liver damage after only 2 weeks in orbit:

http://www.todayonline.com/world/mice-space-showed-liver-damage-after-two-weeks

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/04/20/liver-damage-in-space-mice-raises-doubts-for-human-exploration/

So what might be the reasons for this damage, and what are the implications of this for human spaceflight?
{snip}

Two weeks is sufficiently short that we test the effects. Start with long periods without gravity.

Build a centrifuge that will rotate the Rodent Habitat at 1 G. Put some mice in the rotating habitat at the ISS and in a second static habitat. Have a third one as a control on the Earth. After 3 weeks compare the effects.
https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/files/RodentHabitatFS_1-15-14_2.pdf

Offline sanman

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Re: Health Risks in Space and Mitigation
« Reply #7 on: 04/22/2016 06:12 AM »
Two weeks is sufficiently short that we test the effects. Start with long periods without gravity.

Build a centrifuge that will rotate the Rodent Habitat at 1 G. Put some mice in the rotating habitat at the ISS and in a second static habitat. Have a third one as a control on the Earth. After 3 weeks compare the effects.
https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/files/RodentHabitatFS_1-15-14_2.pdf

And then pray that bad effects don't pan out - because if it does turn out that going to space is bad for your health, and this becomes popular public perception, then this could seriously undermine space tourism.

And if gravity proves to be necessary, then the space tourist industry will have to come up with ways to provide artificial gravity.

But weightlessness is just one example of the enhanced potential risks of space - there's radiation, there's living in an artificial environment, there's micrometeorites, etc, etc.

Will we ever see insurance companies insuring space tourists, just as they do to all sorts of regular vacationers? Will that ever happen, even in the far future?

If space is going to be opened up to the masses, then it's going to have to be made safer for the masses too. Otherwise, you could argue that Jules Verne had great ideas to achieve access to space - for those bold enough to travel like that.

Offline A_M_Swallow

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Re: Health Risks in Space and Mitigation
« Reply #8 on: 04/22/2016 06:00 PM »
{snip}
And if gravity proves to be necessary, then the space tourist industry will have to come up with ways to provide artificial gravity.

But weightlessness is just one example of the enhanced potential risks of space - there's radiation, there's living in an artificial environment, there's micrometeorites, etc, etc.

{snip}

Space radiation will have the same effect on the mice in the centrifuge and the static mice but the atmosphere will shield the mice on the Earth. If there is not one there already it is worth taking a radiation measuring device to the ISS.

Online BrightLight

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Re: Health Risks in Space and Mitigation
« Reply #9 on: 07/26/2016 08:41 PM »
A new paper was published on Lithium Hydride deep space radiation mitigation:
http://ntrs.nasa.gov/search.jsp?R=20160003084&hterms=deep+space+habitat&qs=Ntx%3Dmode%2Bmatchallany%26Ntk%3DAll%26Ns%3DPublication-Date%7C1%26N%3D0%26Ntt%3Ddeep%2Bspace%2Bhabitat

basically, Lithium Hydride does a substantially better job then HDPE and has a density half that of Aluminum.
HDPE has a density of 0.97g/cm^3 while Lithium Hydride has a density between 0.54 and 0.57 g/cm^3.  this is a very good finding.

Online Robotbeat

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Re: Health Risks in Space and Mitigation
« Reply #10 on: 07/27/2016 02:18 AM »
A new paper was published on Lithium Hydride deep space radiation mitigation:
http://ntrs.nasa.gov/search.jsp?R=20160003084&hterms=deep+space+habitat&qs=Ntx%3Dmode%2Bmatchallany%26Ntk%3DAll%26Ns%3DPublication-Date%7C1%26N%3D0%26Ntt%3Ddeep%2Bspace%2Bhabitat

basically, Lithium Hydride does a substantially better job then HDPE and has a density half that of Aluminum.
HDPE has a density of 0.97g/cm^3 while Lithium Hydride has a density between 0.54 and 0.57 g/cm^3.  this is a very good finding.
The [EDIT]low[/EDIT] density in this application isn't a good thing. Denser is better, IF the specific radiation shielding remains the same.
« Last Edit: 07/28/2016 04:33 PM by Robotbeat »
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Online BrightLight

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Re: Health Risks in Space and Mitigation
« Reply #11 on: 07/27/2016 02:23 PM »
A new paper was published on Lithium Hydride deep space radiation mitigation:
http://ntrs.nasa.gov/search.jsp?R=20160003084&hterms=deep+space+habitat&qs=Ntx%3Dmode%2Bmatchallany%26Ntk%3DAll%26Ns%3DPublication-Date%7C1%26N%3D0%26Ntt%3Ddeep%2Bspace%2Bhabitat

basically, Lithium Hydride does a substantially better job then HDPE and has a density half that of Aluminum.
HDPE has a density of 0.97g/cm^3 while Lithium Hydride has a density between 0.54 and 0.57 g/cm^3.  this is a very good finding.
The density in this application isn't a good thing. Denser is better, IF the specific radiation shielding remains the same.
I guess I misunderstood, for the same mass of shielding, I thought you get better protection from GCR's

Offline Eric Hedman

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Re: Health Risks in Space and Mitigation
« Reply #12 on: 07/27/2016 02:58 PM »
And then pray that bad effects don't pan out - because if it does turn out that going to space is bad for your health, and this becomes popular public perception, then this could seriously undermine space tourism.

And if gravity proves to be necessary, then the space tourist industry will have to come up with ways to provide artificial gravity.

But weightlessness is just one example of the enhanced potential risks of space - there's radiation, there's living in an artificial environment, there's micrometeorites, etc, etc.

Will we ever see insurance companies insuring space tourists, just as they do to all sorts of regular vacationers? Will that ever happen, even in the far future?

If space is going to be opened up to the masses, then it's going to have to be made safer for the masses too. Otherwise, you could argue that Jules Verne had great ideas to achieve access to space - for those bold enough to travel like that.
I wouldn't worry too much about this affecting the space tourism market yet.  Tourism will be starting with the quick sub-orbital flights which are not going to show any of these types of effects.  When it advances to orbital, I would bet most trips will be a couple of weeks or less.  We've had hundreds of people fly on short missions (a couple of weeks or less) including a few tourists without serious long term effects.   I doubt with this track record that it would scare too many tourists away from what will be the early markets.  It will be the adrenaline junkies first.  I don't think they will be frightened by this at all.  From the human experiences it is the long stays in space that are really the issue.

Offline Rei

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Re: Health Risks in Space and Mitigation
« Reply #13 on: 07/27/2016 04:41 PM »
A new paper was published on Lithium Hydride deep space radiation mitigation:
http://ntrs.nasa.gov/search.jsp?R=20160003084&hterms=deep+space+habitat&qs=Ntx%3Dmode%2Bmatchallany%26Ntk%3DAll%26Ns%3DPublication-Date%7C1%26N%3D0%26Ntt%3Ddeep%2Bspace%2Bhabitat

basically, Lithium Hydride does a substantially better job then HDPE and has a density half that of Aluminum.
HDPE has a density of 0.97g/cm^3 while Lithium Hydride has a density between 0.54 and 0.57 g/cm^3.  this is a very good finding.
The density in this application isn't a good thing. Denser is better, IF the specific radiation shielding remains the same.
I guess I misunderstood, for the same mass of shielding, I thought you get better protection from GCR's

For the same mass, yes, but that has nothing to do with the density of the compound.  The density comes into play in terms of determining the thickness.  Low density =  bulky.

It's also worth noting:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithium_hydride#Safety

"As discussed above, LiH reacts explosively with water to give hydrogen gas and LiOH, which is caustic. Consequently, LiH dust can explode in humid air, or even in dry air due to static electricity. At concentrations of 555 mg/m3 in air the dust is extremely irritating to the mucous membranes and skin and may cause an allergic reaction. Because of the irritation, LiH is normally rejected rather than accumulated by the body.

Some lithium salts, which can be produced in LiH reactions, are toxic. LiH fire should not be extinguished using carbon dioxide, carbon tetrachloride, or aqueous fire extinguishers; they should be smothered by covering with a metal object or graphite or dolomite powder. Sand is less suitable as it can explode when mixed with burning LiH, especially if not dry. LiH is normally transported in oil, using containers made of ceramic, certain plastics or steel, and is handled in an atmosphere of dry argon or helium.[3]:156 Nitrogen can be used, but not at elevated temperatures as it reacts with lithium.[3]:157 LiH normally contains some metallic Li, which corrodes steel or silica containers at elevated temperatures."

Besides, HDPE is far from the best shielding material you can choose... you want compounds that are as hydrogen-rich as possible.  Ignoring hydrogen itself due to its terrible density and storage properties, your best options are CH4 and NH3, both of which have their uses in space rather than just being dead weight.  Water is also good, to a lesser degree, and is obviously critical.  Inside, for structural materials, you need plastics (since the aforementioned compounds aren't structural), ideally borated.

Offline jarnu

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Re: Health Risks in Space and Mitigation
« Reply #14 on: 07/28/2016 02:40 PM »
Hi,

Long time lurker and new rookie on board.

This item was posted on The Guardian (UK Newspaper)

Apollo Lunar Astronauts Show Higher Cardiovascular Disease Mortality


https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/jul/28/apollo-deep-space-astronauts-five-times-more-likely-to-die-from-heart-disease

The source was: http://www.nature.com/articles/srep29901

...
Writing in the journal Scientific Reports, a team of researchers including scientists from Johnson Space Centre and Nasa Ames Research Centre, describe how the compared the causes of death for the seven deceased Apollo astronauts with those of 35 low Earth orbit astronauts from the same era, and 35 non-flight astronauts.

While the sample size is tiny - a clear limitation to the study - the results reveal that 45% of the Apollo astronauts died from cardiovascular disease, compared to only 9% of non-flight astronauts and 11% of low Earth orbit astronauts.
...

More details in the links posted above.
« Last Edit: 07/28/2016 03:02 PM by jarnu »

Online Robotbeat

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Re: Health Risks in Space and Mitigation
« Reply #15 on: 07/29/2016 03:42 AM »
Sample size of seven! That's microscopic!
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Offline jarnu

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Re: Health Risks in Space and Mitigation
« Reply #16 on: 07/29/2016 09:27 AM »
Sample size of seven! That's microscopic!

It's worth to mention that many studies in so called 'special populations', like groups who suffers dementia and are deaf, or rare tropical diseases, or low occurrence combinations of circumstances and problems, might be restricted to sample of 20 individuals top. I'm not familiar with many medical studies but only with a tiny bit of neuroscience and experimental psychology ones. It is accepted that, in some cases, the target population and/or the experimental technique you used can't cope with a large sample or a very good value on precision or low statistical error or uncertainty. So you can publish those studies after being peer reviewed. In addition, it is very common to misunderstand the very high standards and scrutiny that those studies received (design, methodology, analysis, conclusions) against the numerical values that doesn't match the expectations of other branches of science or journalists. So they were dismissed sometimes as a fashionable career-builder studies. Please, don't follow that path.

Online edkyle99

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Re: Health Risks in Space and Mitigation
« Reply #17 on: 07/29/2016 02:56 PM »
Interesting study that may show something, but there is still that sample size problem.  Of the eight  deceased beyond-LEO Apollo astronauts only three died of cardio issues (according to publicly available information).  Two died of cancer and one of pancreatitis.  One died in a motorcycle accident.  Edgar Mitchell recently passed away at age 85 after a "short illness". 

The three cardio cases were Jim Irwin (61), Ron Evans (56), and Neil Armstrong (82).

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 07/29/2016 03:13 PM by edkyle99 »

Offline A_M_Swallow

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Re: Health Risks in Space and Mitigation
« Reply #18 on: 07/29/2016 05:46 PM »
Interesting study that may show something, but there is still that sample size problem.  Of the eight  deceased beyond-LEO Apollo astronauts only three died of cardio issues (according to publicly available information).  Two died of cancer and one of pancreatitis.  One died in a motorcycle accident.  Edgar Mitchell recently passed away at age 85 after a "short illness". 

The three cardio cases were Jim Irwin (61), Ron Evans (56), and Neil Armstrong (82).

 - Ed Kyle

The first astronauts were test pilots. Compare their death rates and causes with test pilots that were contemporaries of Neil Armstrong.

Offline taavi_p

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Re: Health Risks in Space and Mitigation
« Reply #19 on: 10/10/2016 04:06 PM »
I'm not sure if this study has been already posted:

"Cosmic radiation exposure and persistent cognitive dysfunction" (http://www.nature.com/articles/srep34774).

Rodents were irradiated with simulated cosmic radiation for 12 and 24 weeks. Radiation caused brain damage and increased neuroinflammation that persisted 6 months after exposure. Effects included memory loss and anxiety.

Excerpt:

"The Mars mission will result in an inevitable exposure to cosmic radiation that has been shown to cause cognitive impairments in rodent models, and possibly in astronauts engaged in deep space travel. Of particular concern is the potential for cosmic radiation exposure to compromise critical decision making during normal operations or under emergency conditions in deep space."

IMHO that means that any BEO missions lasting longer than a week or so must have some form of radiation shielding. Just turning the ship's engine bay towards the Sun in the event of solar flare (as Musk said at the IAC event) is not going to cut it.
« Last Edit: 10/11/2016 12:33 AM by taavi_p »

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