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Reduced Gravity Levels Linked to Astronauts’ Weight

Relationship between Gravity and Astronauts' weight

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Reduced gravity linked to astronauts' weight
Reduced Gravity Levels Linked to Astronauts' Weight. Pixabay

The study, led by Jay C. Buckey at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, US, showed that reduced gravity levels (microgravity) in space can lead to spaceflight-associated neuro-ocular syndrome (SANS) in some astronauts.

SANS refers to structural changes in the eye that may impair vision, including swelling of the optic nerve (optic disc edema) and coloured indentations (choroidal folds) in the blood vessel network at the back of the eye.

“Pre-flight weight, waist circumference and chest circumference were all significantly greater in those who developed either disc edema or choroidal folds,” Buckey said.

On Earth, the weight of the body’s tissues presses against other bodily structures (e.g., bones, muscles, organs, veins) creating compressive forces, which can affect pressures in blood vessels and in organs throughout the body.

These compressive forces increase as body weight increases. In microgravity, body tissue is weightless, so compressive forces against the rest of the body are absent, the researchers said.

People with more body tissue — and therefore a higher body weight — are proportionately more likely to experience physiological changes in a low-gravity environment because they experience a greater change in these compressive forces, Buckey hypothesised.

For the study, published in the American Journal of Physiology, the team examined data collected by NASA from astronauts who had made long-duration space flights (averaging 165 days).

Reduced gravity levels linked to astronauts' weight
Representational image. Pixabay

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“The results from this study show a strong relationship between body weight and the development of ocular changes in space,” he added.

The team also found that none of the female astronauts analysed — who weighed less than the males — returned to Earth with symptoms of SANS. (IANS)

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NASA Cancels First All-Female Spacewalk Due to Lack of Small Spacesuit

"An all-woman spacewalk WILL eventually happen"

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NASA, women, space suit
U.S. astronaut Anne McClain waves before the launch of Soyuz MS-11 space ship at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Dec. 3, 2018. VOA

What should have been a giant leap for womankind has turned into a stumble on the path to equality after U.S. space agency NASA canceled the first all-female spacewalk due to a lack of a spacesuit in the right size.

Anne McClain and Christina Koch had been due to step into history books in a spacewalk Friday, during the final week of Women’s History Month.

But McClain will now give up her place on the mission to her male colleague Nick Hague, NASA announced late Monday.

“Mission managers decided to adjust the assignments, due in part to spacesuit availability on the station,” NASA said in a statement.

NASA, spacesuit, women
FILE – U.S. astronaut Christina Koch attends her final exam at the Gagarin Cosmonauts’ Training Center in Star City outside Moscow, Russia, Feb. 20, 2019. VOA

“McClain learned during her first spacewalk that a medium-size hard upper torso — essentially the shirt of the spacesuit — fits her best. Because only one medium-size torso can be made ready by Friday, March 29, Koch will wear it.”

Nearly 60 years after the first human blasted off into space, less than 11 percent of the 500 plus people who have traveled to space have been women, and spacewalk teams have either been all-male or male-female.

McClain and Koch were both part of the 2013 NASA class that was 50 percent women.

NASA said the decision to change the plan was made in consultation with McClain after a spacewalk last week.

“Anne trained in M and L and thought she could use a large but decided after Friday’s spacewalk a medium fits better,” wrote spokeswoman Stephanie Schierholz on Twitter.

nasa, women, space walk
The NASA announcement was met with disappointment and anger by many following the much-anticipated mission on social media, with some arguing an all-female spacewalk was overdue. Pixabay

“In this case, it’s easier (and faster!) to change spacewalkers than reconfigure the spacesuit.”

The NASA announcement was met with disappointment and anger by many following the much-anticipated mission on social media, with some arguing an all-female spacewalk was overdue.

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Others said they were sad that a milestone moment on women’s space exploration had been deferred, but safety came first.

“I’m super disappointed about the all-woman spacewalk not happening as scheduled this Friday but I’m also super supportive of astronauts having the authority to say ‘I would be safer using a different piece of equipment’,” wrote Emily Lakdawalla, a senior editor at the U.S. nonprofit The Planetary Society.

“An all-woman spacewalk WILL eventually happen.” (VOA)