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Just 3 days in space was enough to cause cognitive decline in astronauts

Published Jun 16th, 2024 3:12PM EDT
ISS astronaut in spacesuit
Image: Artsiom P / Adobe

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A new series of studies dives deep into medical data gathered during 2021’s Inspiration4 space mission. The data gathered shows that just three days in space was enough time to cause changes to astronaut’s health, including their bodies and cognitive functions.

The good news here, of course, is that the changes seen were reversed shortly after the astronauts returned to Earth. However, this continues to highlight the risks that humans take in going to space. We already know that extended time in space can cause bone density loss, but there’s still a lot we don’t know about the long-term effects.

These are things that we’ll want to know, too, especially if we plan to do longer-term missions where astronauts are spending much longer periods of time in space. For example, NASA’s hopeful manned mission to Mars would have humans in space for several months. Understanding just how the astronaut’s health would be impacted by that long in space is going to be vital to ensuring we can keep them healthy throughout the process.

two astronauts during mission to mars
Two astronauts in space suits confidently walking on Mars. Image source: Gorodenkoff

The various papers have been published in several different journals, including Nature, as part of the Space Omics and Medical Atlas (SOMA). They all help to showcase the changes noted in the cognitive functions and the bodies of the astronauts aboard the Inspiration4 mission. None of the members of the mission were professional astronauts. As such, they presented a bit of a blank slate for medical researchers to look at, as they hadn’t necessarily received the extensive years of training that astronauts typically receive.

The crew members participated in several experiments, collecting samples of blood, feces, saliva, and urine. They then allowed the data to be cataloged and researched to see how their bodies had changed throughout the mission. Understanding the exact changes an astronaut’s health undergoes during space travel is vital to expanding our space exploration efforts.

It could also help us prepare future space stations like the ISS for operations, where they’ll be able to provide the scientists onboard with the tools they need to keep their bodies in good shape.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.