Author: María Alejandra Corzo Zamora M.D, MSc
Space Physiology & Analogue Space Missions Lead - InnovaSpace Spanish Hub
Misiones Espaciales Análogas.., término que a primera vista para algunos es extraño, para otros es una gran oportunidad de ciencia. La primera vez que vi este término fue durante mi maestría en Fisiología y Salud Espacial en King’s College London, en la cual diferentes docentes y estudios los tenían como referencia para investigación en ciencias espaciales y desde ese momento me enamoré de este campo.
Pero que son las Misiones Espaciales Análogas??
Bueno, estas misiones son operaciones espaciales realizadas en la Tierra en escenarios naturales o artificiales adecuados para simular entornos o escenarios espaciales, los cuales se realizan para realizar pruebas de equipos, estandarizar procedimientos de tripulaciones espaciales y también permiten desarrollar estudios en diversas áreas del conocimiento como son la Biología, medicina, ingeniería biomédica, robótica, comunicaciones, y otros tipos de ingeniería entre otras.
El planeamiento de una misión espacial requiere de diferentes componentes que deben ser milimétricamente estandarizados en tierra para lograr el éxito de la misión en el espacio, en este campo, las misiones espaciales análogas juegan un papel importante en la estandarización y entrenamiento de las personas involucradas en la misma.
Las misiones espaciales análogas datan desde la planeación de las misiones Apolo de NASA en la cual, cráteres de meteoritos y faldas de volcanes fueron utilizados para las pruebas de trajes espaciales y rovers que participaron en la misión; así como los astronautas seleccionados recibieron su entrenamiento en comunicaciones, procedimientos para recolección de muestras geológicas, supervivencia, adaptación a sistemas de emergencia de vehículos y su operación.
Astronautas del Apollo 11 Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin (izquierda) and Neil A. Armstrong, en entrenamiento de procedimiento para la recolección de muestras geológicas en la Luna para el primer aterrizaje Lunar en las Montañas de Quitman en Texas. En esta mission utilizaron herramientas especialmente diseñadas para la mission. (NASA). Imagen tomada de Smithsonian Magazine en: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/going-moon-apollo-11-astronauts-trained-these-five-sites-180972452/
Desde entonces, estas misiones son de vital importancia para los programas espaciales y para todas aquellas organizaciones, instituciones, universidades entre otros que desean realizar investigación y desarrollo en ciencias espaciales.
Entre las aplicaciones más utilizadas encontramos el estudio de los factores humanos en el espacio, los cuales se relacionan con respuestas comportamentales y fisiológicas al confinamiento, la interacción entre comunicaciones de la tripulación con el centro de mando remoto y el desarrollo de aplicaciones a distancia para el apoyo de la tripulación y manejo de emergencias.
Entre los escenarios naturales utilizados para estas misiones son los desiertos, los cuales poseen características únicas como acceso, cambios extremos de temperatura día y noche, vientos y su gran similitud con las imágenes topográficas de Marte, ejemplo de su uso se encuentra la estación del desierto de UTAH por el Mars Society y misiones temporales realizadas por el Foro Austriaco Espacial en desierto de Rio tinto en España, norte del Sahara en Marruecos y la región de Dophar en Oman. En Latinoamérica se han realizado misiones en el desierto de Atacama en Chile, en el desierto de la Tatacoa en Colombia entre otros desiertos.
De igual manera, la Antártida, al ser un continente poco poblado y de difícil acceso se convierte en otro escenario muy atractivo para el desarrollo de misiones análogas espaciales, es así como una estación permanente en la cual se ha desarrollado diferentes aplicaciones espaciales y estudios biomédicos es la estación Concordia operada por Italia y Francia.
El mundo de las misiones espaciales análogas es muy amplio y fascinante, así como el mismo espacio, otros escenarios incluyen cuevas, selvas, faldas de volcanes y el fondo del océano, hasta escenarios en hangares en la ciudad, los cuales proveen similitudes con el espacio dependiendo del objetivo que se busque en cada misión.
Si eres amante de estas ciencias, te invito a seguir los blogs en InnovaSpace, donde encontrarás otros datos sobre misiones espaciales análogas y otros temas de las ciencias espaciales.
Nos vemos próximamente!!!!
InnovaSpace is pleased to welcome Dr Stijn Thoolen to tell us more about life at the Concordia Research Station in the Antarctic, an extreme environment where temperatures can fall below −80 °C (−112 °F) in the winter months. As an ESA-sponsored medical research doctor, Stijn will remain at the Franco-Italian research station for 13 months - definitely not an activity for the faint hearted!
Dr Stijn Thoolen
Medical Research Doctor, Concordia Research Station, Antarctica
75 ° 05’59 “S; 123 ° 19’56” E.
I will spend 13 months of my life at these coordinates from November onwards. Far away from my girlfriend, my family and friends, from everything that I know and have loved for the past 28 years. A small 1700 km away from the South Pole, situated on a 3270-high ice sheet, with 40% less oxygen than at sea level (the atmosphere is thinner at the poles), a humidity lower than in the Sahara, average temperatures of –30°C in summer and –65°C in winter, four months without any ray of sunshine (is this lunchtime, or should I go to bed already?) and without possibility of evacuation for nine months, the Franco-Italian research station Concordia on Dome C in Antarctica sounds more like a base on another planet. Every year the European Space Agency sends a ‘hivernaut’ (a winter version of an astronaut?) to this abandoned outpost at the bottom of our globe to perform biomedical experiments on the crew, in preparation for missions to the Moon, Mars and who knows what’s next. This year it’s my turn, and those 13 months are starting to get awfully close…
I hear you ask: why (…would you do that for God’s sake)?
“In our history it was some horde of furry little mammals who hid from the dinosaurs, colonized the treetops and later scampered down to domesticate fire, invent writing, construct observatories and launch space vehicles” – Carl Sagan
I sometimes ask myself that question as well, but you can imagine that the answer is as obvious as the undertaking itself.
Maybe we should start with a short self-evaluation:
Self-evaluation is not something we often do. At least, I was never good at it. When everything goes according to plan, and everyone around you screams how wonderful it is that “little Stijn wants to become a surgeon!”, you aren’t really encouraged to take a critical look at yourself, right? But sometimes a shock (or two) helps to adjust a bit. A lesson in humility perhaps.
For me, that first shock came about five years ago. I had said “yes” a little too much, a good friend died, my parents divorced, and with about ten suitcases of mental luggage I left for a research internship in Boston, USA, during my medical studies. In such a new environment, full with material to reflect on, things became a little more relative. I realised that nothing is as obvious as it seems, that some things might actually be bigger than us (the Universe, God, the flying spaghetti monster, you choose), and, even better, how beautiful and special it is that we are able to witness all that (I know this sounds dull, but I dare you to try with your eyes fixed on a bright, starry sky).
Adam J Crellin
Graduate Medical Student, Oxford University; Analog Astronaut, Austrian Space Forum
While attending the 2019 European Mars Conference in London this week at the Institute of Physics, we had the pleasure of witnessing the graduation ceremony of the next cohort of newly qualified Austrian Space Forum (OeWF) analog astronauts, who will take part in next years' AMADEE20 Mars analog mission in Israel. Analog astronauts are people who have been trained to test equipment and conduct activities under simulated space conditions, and they play an important role in preparing for future Moon and Mars missions. We liked so much the graduation speech given by analog astronaut Adam Crellin that we asked if we could publish it here on the InnovaSpace website to inspire all the young would-be astronauts out there - dream big!
"I would like to open by saying not only how much of an honour it is to speak on behalf of my classmates and the Austrian Space Forum today, but also to stand in front of you all as a newly qualified analog astronaut. I am especially proud to be speaking at a European-wide conference in the UK, organised by the recently reformed Mars Society UK.
In classrooms across the UK, and even the world, children are being asked by their primary school teachers, the existential question of ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’. Some of these children, fascinated by space, will say they want to be an astronaut. Children often continue this hope as they grow older, perhaps keeping it a bit quieter, guarding it a bit more closely. Later, they then discover that there are a huge range of diverse opportunities in space, and that astronauts are one small cog in a large machine. A machine that contains astronauts who plant flags; plant experts who grow astrocrops; astronomers who study the universe and its laws; lawyers who write legislation through careful engineering; engineers who build spacecraft that rock; and, well, for those who like rocks, there is geology as well as countless other professions."
"As we prepare for a renewed age of crewed missions beyond low Earth orbit, to fill the steps of the Apollo astronauts, and extend those tracks further than have ever been achieved before, we are reminded of the importance of analog missions. In the same way famous twentieth-century polar explorer, Roald Amundsen, spent years experimenting, refining, and proving equipment and procedures suitable for a South Pole expedition, we too are preparing for a Mars expedition. And equally so, preparedness will be key to success. For theory and strictly controlled laboratory research, can only partially answer some of the questions about what to expect, and how to work on Mars. Analog research missions, including those of the Austrian Space Forum, help to provide further answers.
To be an analog astronaut, is to be a unique cog in our space industry machine. A cog whose sporks interlink with many different cogs, working across disciplines with research groups throughout Europe. A well-oiled cog, remaining fit and healthy in preparedness for any challenge which may arise. And a cog which turns equally well with many cogs, both the rusted expert cogs, and the shiny new ones, who we seek to inspire the next generation of Mars pioneers; perhaps the most important task we all have. But despite these unique qualities, we remember that we are still a small cog and that it is our collective effort, turning together, which will one day lead us to Mars. To be part of this small community with big dreams, is the greatest honour of any analog astronaut."
Adam J Crellin, 4th November 2019
MSc Space Physiology & Health; Human Performance Intern, McLaren Applied Technologies
With international space agencies and the real-life Tony Stark (Elon Musk) making huge advances in rocket technology, it is likely that within the next couple of decades humankind will touch down on Mars. However, this is only half the battle. The gravity on Mars is roughly one third as strong as Earth’s. You may be thinking “great, everything will require less effort”, and you’d be right, however, there is a huge caveat to that. As we’ve found from the results of time spent in space (the longest continuous period being 14.4 months), when people are exposed to levels of gravity lower than that on Earth, losses in muscle and bone occur; predominantly, in muscles which we continually use to walk and maintain our posture. You may have heard the expression ‘use it or lose it’ - hugely applicable here. These losses can increase astronauts’ risk of injury when returning to Earth by leaving them very weak and fragile. A return mission to Mars will take around 3 YEARS to complete, mainly because of the wait for the two planets to be close enough in proximity again to allow a relatively short journey home. That’s around 12 months in microgravity and around 26 months in Martian gravity. Now, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that, based on the numbers, the outlook for muscle retention isn’t great. That being said, we‘re still pretty uninformed about the extent to which living on Mars will stimulate our muscles.
Recently, my colleagues and I conducted an investigation to try to shed some light on the matter. To do this properly, we needed to achieve two key things: 1) simulate walking in Mars gravity, 2) measure the activity in the muscles used for walking. With this, we compared the muscle activity produced while walking on Mars to that produced when walking on Earth, gauging the degree of muscle loss that we might expect for a mission to Mars and to inform countermeasures.
To simulate Mars gravity, we used a technique called lower body positive pressure (LBPP). There are a few different ways in which you can simulate partial gravity environments, but this one has fewer limitations than the rest. LBPP involves putting someone inside an air-tight inflatable box from the waist down. Through manipulation of the air pressure within, it can generate a lifting force, changing the weight of the person inside. Our device was designed and built by engineers at the John Ernsting Aerospace Physiology Laboratory at the Pontificia Universidade do Rio Grande do Sul (PUCRS) in Porto Alegre, Brazil. With a treadmill placed underneath, the participant could then walk in simulated Mars gravity. To measure the amount of activity inside the leg muscles, we then attached electrodes to the skin at each of the muscles we were interested in (a method called electromyography) which picked up an electrical signal that muscles give off when they are being worked. The more intense the signal, the more active that muscle is while walking.
What we found was quite unexpected. The results of our investigation suggested that there was no significant difference between the muscle activity observed while walking in Mars gravity and the muscle activity observed walking on Earth. If this were to be true, then it would not be foolish to think that we could use the 26 months on the Martian surface to reverse losses in muscle and bone suffered on the outward journey in preparation for the return trip. However, there were two important variables that we failed to account for in our experiment. These variables were stride length and stride frequency when walking.
The moon is smaller than Mars, and so there is even less gravity there, but the same principle applies. With this in mind, even if the results of our experiment were to be true and the walking muscles are getting just as much activity with each step on Mars as they are on Earth, theoretically, they will be used less often. Considering our ‘use it or lose it’ principle, this would still mean muscle and bone loss to a disabling degree in the absence of effective counter strategies; which are currently lacking. More studies need to be done around this area, accounting for all variables, to further our understanding of human performance on Mars and ensure the safety of our astronauts, or we’ll be keeping Elon Musk waiting at the launch pad!
InnovaSpace Admin Director
With another year now drawn to a close, I thought it would be interesting to look back on the two very successful InnovaSpace Kids2Mars events that took place in 2018 involving questions asked by children to crew members of Mars analogue missions, one with the MDRS Crew 185 in the Utah desert and the other with the Austrian Space Forum’s AMADEE-18 mission in the Dhofar desert in Oman.
In summary, 53 children from 33 different countries from around the world had the opportunity to ask anything they wanted about travelling to and life on Mars, and very interesting answers came back from analogue astronauts and crew members who spent their time isolated in desert regions, especially chosen for their similarities to the planet Mars.
Analogue astronauts on this type of mission in general have little spare time, as they are involved in many research activities, so we knew we could not bombard them with a mountain of questions. This in fact also linked well with our aims for the Kids2Mars project, which was to involve children from as many different countries as possible – quantity of countries rather than quantity of questions. With our tagline of Space Without Borders, this aspect was of prime importance, so an end result of 33 countries was very satisfying, especially so considering the diverse range of nations involved, such as Bolivia, Bulgaria, Iceland, Mongolia and Nepal. In fact, we had questions coming from countries in 6 of the 7 continents, just missing out on Antarctica, which for obvious reasons is a little more difficult!
It was interesting to hear how the name of the planet Mars, named after the Roman god of war, was pronounced in the various languages. Certainly, the sound of the word was the same or very similar to the English pronunciation in the majority of cases, however, there were a few exceptions, such as from China, Japan, Nepal, Libya and Indian Tamil. We have extracted the word Mars, where mentioned, from all of the children’s questions and with the invaluable help of our two collaborators from Italy, Fabio Pinna and Mario Mollo, created a short video – we hope you like it!
One thing that has become obvious from all the Kids2Mars activities we have conducted is how much the subject of space and space travel arouses curiosity, and how much the young people involved in the lectures and creative pursuits have done so with great enthusiasm and interest. In our view, this is exactly why outreach activities linked to Mars or the Moon or astronauts, in fact anything involving space, can be used as a tool to capture the attention and interest of children, motivating them to give more consideration to the STEM areas of education. Although the adults of today are laying and securing the foundations of human life in space, it is our children who will build on this to become the Space Generation, and perhaps in time, even future Mars colonisers!
InnovaSpace Scientific & Strategic Consultant.
On November 21st and 22nd, 2018 I had the pleasure of visiting the laboratory of Prof. Nandu Goswami, at the Medical University of Graz, in Austria. Nandu is an Associate Professor at the university, interim head of the Division of Physiology and Head of the Gravitational Physiology and Medicine research unit. The main areas of study of his research group are cardiovascular physiology, cerebral auto-regulation and space/gravitational physiology, especially using Earth-based models of space flight.
Cardiovascular alterations encountered during space missions, such as a reduction in central venous pressure, cardiac atrophy and decreased vascular responsiveness to standing are major concerns for astronauts during and after spaceflight. On Earth, the ageing process is also linked to physiological deconditioning of the cardiovascular system, which creates a parallel with the changes in human physiology secondary to weightlessness exposure. At the Gravitational Physiology and Medicine research unit, bed rest studies are used as a ground-based simulation of microgravity to further understand the effects of deconditioning, both for the elderly on Earth and astronauts in space. This is also an area of special interest for InnovaSpace Advisor Joan Vernikos, who conducted similar research at NASA for many years and has published scientific articles and books on the topic.
InnovaSpace congratulates Nandu for his work, which is a very interesting area of research and can be seen as a good example of technological and knowledge transfer from space to Earth. Together with the InnovaSpace team, I hope we can one day collaborate with Prof. Goswami and his group in Graz.
Admin Director, InnovaSpace
A really exciting week lies ahead for the Aerospace Medicine and Rehabilitation Laboratory team of researchers from Northumbria University in Newcastle, UK. Led by Professor Nick Caplan, the team will take part in a partial-gravity parabolic flight campaign organised by the European Space Agency, the problem under investigation being one that affects many astronauts when they spend time in the microgravity of space – back pain.
It is well known that astronauts increase in height during their missions, usually between 3-5 cm. While under the influence of the gravity on Earth, the spine is compressed, rather like a spring being pushed down. Remove that force of gravity and the spring will expand and stretch, and this is what is thought to happen in space – the force of gravity is removed and so the vertebrae that make up the spine stretch out, and hence the increase in height and discomfort as connecting ligaments and support muscles extend. Over time spent in reduced gravity, research has demonstrated these muscles that connect the bones of the spine together shrink and weaken, particularly those in the lower back, as they are less required in space.
This musculoskeletal deconditioning can lead to a greater risk of spinal injury when an astronaut returns once more to an increased gravity environment, such as on Earth. Therefore, the Northumbria University experiment will examine through a technique called fine wire electromyography, which support muscles in the back are being affected by a reduction in microgravity. With this knowledge, it could be possible to develop an effective countermeasure to mitigate the muscle loss that will occur as humans spend longer durations in space, and considering the likelihood of colonies being established on the Moon or Mars.
InnovaSpace sends good luck vibes and best wishes to all the research team of the Aerospace Medicine and Rehabilitation Laboratory who will soon be boarding the Novespace Zero-G plane for 3 days of 31 parabolas a day. Hoping your equipment behaves, your data is plentiful and you all manage to not vomit up your breakfasts!
#parabolicflight #AstronautBackPain #partialgravity
In this Vlog, Dr Lucas Rehnberg, InnovaSpace SGen Hub Coordinator talks about his experience working at the Mission Support Centre in Innsbruck, Austria, providing remote assistance and monitoring to the analog astronauts and crew of the AMADEE18 Mars simulation mission, based in the Dhofar desert in Oman.
Blog written by Dr. Lucas Rehnberg, InnovaSpace SGen Hub Coordinator
In the build up to the AMADEE-18 mission in Oman in February 2018, the Austrian Space Forum is in the thick of preparation with the leadership team and the analogue astronauts (AA) undergoing intensive training. But not only this, the Austrian Space Forum, with all the excitement surrounding AMADEE-18, organised an additional weekend of training for the volunteers that are so eager to take part; this came in the form of Analog Mission Basic Training (AMBT) for AMADEE-18. I myself got caught up in this and am honoured to have taken part in this training to join fellow Mars pioneers and space enthusiasts on this endeavour to help pave the way for a future mission to Mars.
The training weekend recently took place in the beautiful city of Innsbruck, Austria, just before the opening of the Christmas markets. In this quiet city surrounded by the Alps, an international group of young scientists with a shared passion for space gathered for training. What struck me immediately was the range of nations and backgrounds of all the volunteers that were involved. There were undergraduate science students, psychologists, IT experts, doctors and space engineers, to name a few. And these individuals came from across Europe and even as far as Oman to be a part of this mission. True to its mission goals, the Austrian Space Forum, with projects like AMADEE-18, is providing outreach and opportunities for young professionals and students to engage in space life sciences by providing hands on experience. The gathering of this group of volunteers shows how space has this universal appeal, able to be cross-generations and truly be multi-disciplinary.
Lead by its President, Dr. Gernot Grömer, and the leadership team, we began our training in earnest. This training had been a fairly new innovation of the Austrian Space Forum, born from years of experience of conducting these analogue missions. With technology and software evolving so rapidly, it is easy to see how between missions individuals would need to re-validate or completely learn new skills and familiarise themselves with the latest changes in order to run a safe and efficient analogue mission. To this end, this training was developed in order to set a new standard of training for the volunteers and participants in these analogue missions.
The training began with a tour of the facilities, including seeing some of the scientific experiments that will be taken to the field, and team building exercises to break the ice and to get acquainted with our new colleagues for the up coming mission. Rapidly the group came together, with a shared passion for this common goal, this group of strangers quickly formed the new mission support team that would help run AMADEE-18.Technical lectures were broken up with some inspiring talks from Dr Grömer and his team, but also by one of the current AA, Kartik Kumar. Kartik is currently preparing for his second analogue mission, but took the time to give us a talk on his experiences of selection, training for this mission and what is it means to him to be an AA.
The bulk of the training came in the form of a ‘simulated’ or ’Sim’ mission in the actual mission support centre (MSC) in Innsbruck. We were trained with the latest software and protocols, as well as operational procedures. It was also an excellent experience to see what it is really like to work with a 10 min time delay (due to the distance from Earth, radio communication takes 10mins, one way!). This small taste of ‘hands on’ training brought it home as to what it will really be like when the mission launches (or ‘lands’) on the 8th February in Oman. The level of complexity, planning and logistics for these missions is astonishing and a real credit to the team at the Austrian Space Forum.
There is definitely a buzz in the air at the Austrian Space Forum. The passion for this mission and for what they do is palpable. From the top, with Dr Grömer, down to the newest intern, they truly love what they do, and passionately believe in what we are doing and trying to achieve with AMADEE-18 and the missions to come. The Austrian Space Forum may not have the resources or prestige of the national space agencies, however you would be foolish to think that their passion or commitment to sending mankind to Mars is no less intense. The Austrian Space Forum, in partnership with the Sultanate of Oman, has already made waves and contributed hugely to the space community with acquiring new knowledge for all to benefit from as well as galvanising students and space enthusiasts, myself included.
For those who wish to know more or simply follow AMADEE-18, there is lots of information about the mission on the OeWF website, and there will be more teasers released as the launch date approaches. Follow the build up on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) and follow the link to monitor the count down:
For further mission description, follow the below link:
Follow on social media with #oewf #AMADEE18
Blog written by Joan Vernikos PhD, Thirdage llc, Culpeper VA, USA
While teaching Pharmacology at Ohio State University (OSU), I was lured to NASA Ames Research Center in 1964 by Dr.Eric Ogden, the Chair in Physiology at OSU and a cardiovascular physiologist, to join him in a small unit of five research scientists. My background had been in brain/stress regulation; there was also a microbiologist, an exercise physiologist, a metabolism and a biological rhythm scientist. Very little was known about what happens to humans in space; our observations from one flight to the next slowly enabled us to form a picture of what might be happening, but progress was gradual. We had to find a way to at least simulate the effects of space flight on the ground and facilitate research that would complement and help us understand what the consequences of living in the microgravity of space might be.
Eventually, the optimal model adopted by the space science research community as a means for studying the physiological changes occurring in weightlessness during spaceflight was 6˚ Head Down Bed Rest (HDBR) or variations of this. In essence, by lying down continuously, the maximum influence of the force of gravity pulling down on us, Gz (head-to-toe), is minimised to Gx (across the chest). It was from such studies in healthy volunteers that I first noticed the similarity in changes seen in astronauts in space to those of people ageing on Earth. Muscle and bone wasting, reduced blood volume, a type of anemia, fluid and electrolyte shifts, cardiovascular deficits, and reduced aerobic capacity alterations in space all resulted on return to Earth in the astronauts experiencing fainting, and disturbed balance and coordination. These changes are also known to be the underlying causes of falls in the elderly. However, this conclusion was met with disbelief, including my own, since healthy young astronauts and HDBR volunteers recovered soon after returning to Earth or on becoming ambulatory. As knowledge accumulated and the duration of space missions grew longer, it has become clear that both the physiological response to spending time in space, as well as the ageing process on Earth, are gravity-dependent conditions.
Recovery from 6-month stays in space confirm that recovery is difficult, slower or impossible. Though bone density, for instance, may recover its density, its architecture is more like that of an older person and not likely to recover. The rate of change of bone in space is also faster than found on Earth, with around 1% loss of bone density a year on Earth, whereas in space this loss is more like 1% a week or month.
On Earth, gravity has been considered the enemy that drags us down and ages us. But the reverse is true. From birth, from the buoyancy of the womb through peak development, children intuitively learn from the beginning to use gravity in the design and function of their body. They do this by moving and orienting themselves in as many ways as possible, exposing all parts of their body to this universal stimulus. Skeletal, neuro-muscular and cardiovascular stimuli are below threshold in the microgravity of space, which results in a 10-times faster onset of atrophy. On return to Earth functional capacity is equally reduced 10-times faster than in ageing. There are comparable underlying metabolic and morphological disturbances where decreased mechano-transduction is a common factor. As more advances are emerging from the science of ageing, such as the discovery of telomeres, it has become possible to compare these with those in space. Though gravity is ever-present on Earth, it is useless if we do not use it.
Deconditioning in space from gravity deprivation, and reduced gravity influence in bed rest, have drawn attention to the medical hazards of gravity withdrawal in other gravity-related conditions, such as sedentary office work and other ageing lifestyles. Today’s prolonged hours of uninterrupted sitting in both these cases have been linked to atrophic, inflammatory and metabolic conditions, from cancer, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular changes and ageing. The answer simply lies in relearning to use gravity, much as a child does when playing – moving from dawn to dusk, incorporating multiple changes in posture with intermittent, low intensity, high frequency movement.
Gravity clearly plays a role from cradle to grave. Understanding that role may, in fact, provide sought-after simple and inexpensive solutions to a broad variety of today’s common disorders, all the way to achieving greater independence and longevity.
"The body electric" as Walt Whitman eloquently described the human physique in the full flush of health almost 100 years ago (Forbes, April 2, 1921) "is attainable by all. It is a matter of living sanely, according to the dictates of common sense."