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Space ‘warps astronauts’ brains’ and leaves ‘worrying’ changes in their wake even once they’re back on Earth, study shows

ASTRONAUTS’ brains change as a by-product of weightlessness.

The side effects of space travel are being watched closely as governments and private industry step up efforts to take people off the world.

Astronaut Nick Hague is carried by a NASA team after returning from space

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Astronaut Nick Hague is carried by a NASA team after returning from space
Even on short space flights, astronauts can lose up to 20% muscle mass

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Even on short space flights, astronauts can lose up to 20% muscle massPhoto credit: Getty Images – Getty
Astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper fainted on the podium during the ceremony celebrating her return from space

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Astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper fainted on the podium during the ceremony celebrating her return from spaceCredit: AP

Weightlessness affects the perivascular spaces — the pockets in brain tissue that serve as channels for fluids.

15 astronauts had two MRI scans before missions into space and four after their return.

“In the astronaut cohort, we found that the number of new astronauts increased overall [perivascular space] Volume from before to after the flight,” the newspaper wrote.

Experienced astronauts showed no change but had enlarged brain drainage tunnels invading the study.

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This could mean that if space changes the brain, the change is permanent or takes a significant amount of time to revert to its former self.

ScienceAlert reported that it’s still unclear whether the change is significant enough to be considered a major health risk for would-be space travelers.

As the commercial space industry brings paying customers into space with less training, understanding the implications of leaving Earth will be important.

According to the article published in Scientific Reports, this was the first study of its kind.

The journey to space and back is an extreme physical ordeal.

When they take off, rockets have to reach the exit speed of the earth – about 11 kilometers per second.

In space, astronauts train two hours a day to counteract the physical stresses that microgravity puts on the body.

Training is also a proven solution to prevent astronauts from passing out upon returning from space.

SpaceX’s spacecraft is scheduled to take Japanese billionaire and space tourist Yusaku Maezawa around the moon in 2023 – in a test run, the spacecraft has re-entered Earth at 19,000 miles per hour.

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Early space programs addressed the health risks associated with long journeys into space.

Cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov volunteered for a mission to study the effects of weightlessness on the human body – he spent 437 consecutive days in space, orbited the Earth 7,000 times and is now 80 years old.

Cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov holds the record for continuous space travel at 437 days

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Cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov holds the record for continuous space travel at 437 daysPhoto credit: Reuters

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https://www.the-sun.com/tech/5281394/space-warps-astronauts-brains-leaving-changes/ Space ‘warps astronauts’ brains’ and leaves ‘worrying’ changes in their wake even once they’re back on Earth, study shows

Chris Barrese

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