Research into space exploration continues to grow at an exponential rate. Many new initiatives by private companies have helped this growth, including Elon Musk’s numerous launch successes with SpaceX, Jeff Bezos ’recent adventures with Blue Origin, and Richard Branson’s work with Virgin Galactic, to name a few. .
This is combined with the efforts of experienced government organizations such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which has led much of the research, efforts, and foundations for space exploration and travel over the past 60 years. .
Along with many private entities, NASA continues to drive cutting-edge initiatives in aerospace science. With a growing worldwide interest in lunar exploration and possible trips to Mars, NASA has announced a new program: the Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog (CHAPEA).
CHAPEA will involve “a series of analog missions that will simulate one-year stays on the surface of Mars,” with the goal of better preparing for future NASA missions and Mars-specific missions. As described on the program page, “Each mission will consist of four crew members living on Mars Dune Alpha, an isolated 1,700-square-foot habitat. During the mission, the crew will conduct simulated spacewalks and provide data on various factors, which may include health and physical and behavioral performance. ” Besides, “[to] If you get the most accurate data during the analog, the habitat will be as realistic from Mars as possible, which can include environmental stressors such as resource constraints, isolation, equipment failures, and significant workloads. The main activities of the crew during the analog can consist of simulated space walks that include virtual reality, communications, crop growth, meal preparation and consumption, exercise, hygiene activities, maintenance work, personal time, scientific work and son “.
The program will be critical to understanding how highly trained and motivated people will act under the rigors and pressures of a mission to Mars. Specifically, it will not only highlight operational challenges, but will also illuminate the physical and mental health challenges that future astronauts may encounter in long-term space missions.
Earlier this year, I wrote about new research efforts trying to uncover the effects of space travel on the human body. Unequivocally, decades of research indicate that space travel affects human health to varying degrees. An example I wrote about references to a NASA fact sheet that specifically discusses muscle atrophy in space and explains that “Since astronauts work in a weightless environment, very little muscle contraction is needed to support their bodies or move […] Studies have shown that astronauts experience up to 20 percent loss of muscle mass on space flights lasting five to eleven days. ”
These findings are crucial to the research and development efforts of NASA and other organizations interested in space travel. Especially as the space tourism industry expands and interest in longer missions moving away from Earth continues to grow, it is extremely valuable to find solutions to protect and increase human health in space missions.
In fact, initiatives like NASA’s CHAPEA have an important purpose and are likely to provide valuable information that can be used for future generations. Ultimately, it is promising to see that organizations like NASA continue to push the boundaries of space exploration and science in a well-informed and planned way that prioritizes the most important asset in any space mission: health and the safety of crew members.