Human Health during Space Travel: State-of-the-Art Review

Cells. 2022 Dec 22;12(1):40. doi: 10.3390/cells12010040.


The field of human space travel is in the midst of a dramatic revolution. Upcoming missions are looking to push the boundaries of space travel, with plans to travel for longer distances and durations than ever before. Both the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and several commercial space companies (e.g., Blue Origin, SpaceX, Virgin Galactic) have already started the process of preparing for long-distance, long-duration space exploration and currently plan to explore inner solar planets (e.g., Mars) by the 2030s. With the emergence of space tourism, space travel has materialized as a potential new, exciting frontier of business, hospitality, medicine, and technology in the coming years. However, current evidence regarding human health in space is very limited, particularly pertaining to short-term and long-term space travel. This review synthesizes developments across the continuum of space health including prior studies and unpublished data from NASA related to each individual organ system, and medical screening prior to space travel. We categorized the extraterrestrial environment into exogenous (e.g., space radiation and microgravity) and endogenous processes (e.g., alteration of humans' natural circadian rhythm and mental health due to confinement, isolation, immobilization, and lack of social interaction) and their various effects on human health. The aim of this review is to explore the potential health challenges associated with space travel and how they may be overcome in order to enable new paradigms for space health, as well as the use of emerging Artificial Intelligence based (AI) technology to propel future space health research.

Keywords: human health; microgravity; space exploration; space mission; space radiation; space travel.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Extraterrestrial Environment
  • Humans
  • Space Flight*
  • Weightlessness*

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.