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, 46 (3), 97-106

The Effects of Prolonged Weightlessness and Reduced Gravity Environments on Human Survival

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  • PMID: 11539500

The Effects of Prolonged Weightlessness and Reduced Gravity Environments on Human Survival

R L Taylor. J Br Interplanet Soc.

Abstract

The manned exploration of the solar system and the surfaces of some of the smaller planets and larger satellites requires that we are able to keep the adverse human physiological response to long term exposure to near zero and greatly reduced gravity environments within acceptable limits consistent with metabolic function. This paper examines the physiological changes associated with microgravity conditions with particular reference to the weightless demineralizatoin of bone (WDB). It is suggested that many of these changes are the result of physical/mechanical processes and are not primarily a medical problem. There are thus two immediately obvious and workable, if relatively costly, solutions to the problem of weightlessness. The provision of a near 1 g field during prolonged space flights, and/or the development of rapid transit spacecraft capable of significant acceleration and short flight times. Although these developments could remove or greatly ameliorate the effects of weightlessness during long-distance space flights there remains a problem relating to the long term colonization of the surfaces of Mars, the Moon, and other small solar system bodies. It is not yet known whether or not there is a critical threshold value of 'g' below which viable human physiological function cannot be sustained. If such a threshold exists permanent colonization may only be possible if the threshold value of 'g' is less than that at the surface of the planet on which we wish to settle.

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