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Data from Inspiration4 astronauts suggests short space trips aren’t harmful to health

SpaceX's Inspiration4 crew in orbit.

New research that was conducted on the four civilian astronauts of the Inspiration4 mission shows the effects of short-duration spaceflight on the human body. Though a very small sample size of just four people, researchers hope that this work can indicate that private spaceflight does not pose a health risk to potential astronauts.

The four members of the Inspiration4 crew launched in September 2021 and spent three says in space, visiting low-Earth orbit. That makes their experiences comparable to astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) in terms of their exposure to space radiation, the researchers say. Over 100,000 pieces of health-related data were collected from the crew, seeing how their bodies responded to time in space.

“Inspiration4 was the first opportunity to employ biomedical research methods on a spaceflight crewed entirely by private astronauts,” said Emmanuel Urquieta of Baylor’s Center for Space Medicine, one of the authors of the research published in the journal Nature. “Civilian participants have different educational backgrounds and medical conditions compared to astronauts with career-long exposure to spaceflight. Understanding their physiological and psychological responses to spaceflight and their ability to conduct research is of utmost importance as we continue to send more private astronauts into space.”

Among the findings were that half of the crew experienced a common complaint called space motion sickness, but that effects of spaceflight on to cardiovascular systems and cognitive functioning were small though variable among people.

Another useful finding for longer-term research was that tools like biosample collection instruments, a hand-held ultrasound scanner, and real-time analysis kits did work in microgravity, meaning they could be used for further research into astronaut health.

The data has been added to a datacase called Enhancing eXploration Platforms and ANalog Definition, or EXPAND, which aims to collect data and samples from experiments into space health.

“The data and biosamples represent the first of, hopefully, many commercial spaceflight missions to come as we continue our work to build and bolster the EXPAND database, our first-of-its-kind space health research platform and biorepository,” said Jimmy Wu, another of the researchers. “The research and data collected from the pioneering Inspiration4 mission is stored within EXPAND and will inform future medical research to improve the health of both space-bound astronauts and people on Earth.”

Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
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