After staying for six months on the International Space Station, astronaut can become as weak as 80-year-old man. According to new research, it is the major concern for NASA, which sees this as a problem standing in the way of long-duration mission to the asteroids and to Mars.
Marquette University biologist Robert Fitts, who led the study, said that the accelerated aging in space - this is a temporary phenomenon, and on his arrival to Earth, the astronauts muscle mass is restored within a few months.
But what if after an emergency landing on the home planet, you will need to escape from a burning spacecraft? Or after arrival on Mars, it is necessary to make emergency repairs to the exit to the outside? Will the forces of men and women who came to Mars to deal with the routine work?
"It’s a concern," - Fitts said in an interview this week.
To the astronauts could prevent the process of letting up, more research and the right equipment space gym, Fitts said. "I truly believe that we can prevent it," - he said.
Fitts based its findings on biopsy (tissue sampling and microscopic analysis) of the calf muscles, which his team played on nine U.S. and Russian space station inhabitants in the period from 2002 to 2005. This is the first study of the muscle tissue of astronauts at the cellular level, with direct biopsy.
Every astronaut who participated in the study, spent six months aboard the orbiting lab, and then made a biopsy in the laboratory, before heading back to Earth.
The researchers found that the astronauts had lost more than 40 percent of the strength of slow fibers of gastrocnemius muscle. This muscle plays a key role in keeping the balance, and it seems more exposed to the negative effects in space, rather than the other parts of the body.
Fitts said that an astronaut exchange the fourth decade, came to the state of the muscles, the muscles equivalent 80-year-old man.
No matter how strong a man going into space. Fitts said that people with the most muscular, suffered the greatest muscle atrophy in orbit.
Such significant degradation occurs calf despite the fact that the astronauts spend one to two hours a day to practice. NASA has long come to the conclusion about the need for exercise without weighing, so the space station is equipped with treadmills, exercise bikes and a resistive exercise equipment for sit-ups and exercises for calves.
In addition to training, the astronauts need to eat more.
"Every one of the astronauts, we studied ... ate enough" - said Fitts.
Each astronaut is unique. Because of genetics, some lose more muscle mass, how much and how well they are doing.
Fitts work was carried out at the expense of NASA and will be published in September in the journal The Journal of Physiology. Popular news informers tell about the most important events of the day.