Before going to space, astronauts go through a rigorous training programme, but no amount of training can prepare them for the toll that the entire experience has on their health. According to research, astronauts lose a significant amount of bone mass while in space, and it takes them over a year to make up for it after returning from their missions. The McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health’s director, Dr. Steven Boyd of the University of Calgary in Canada, also issued a warning about the risk that future trips to Mars may face due to the pace of bone mass loss.
‘Will it continue to get worse over time or not? We don’t know,’
‘It’s possible we hit a steady state after a while, or it’s possible that we continue to lose bone. But I can’t imagine that we’d continue to lose it until there’s nothing left,’ Boyd told The Guardian.
According to a study that examined the wrists and ankles of astronauts during and after their time on the International Space Station (ISS), they lost about 1% to 2% of their bone density per month.
That almost equals the amount of bone density that people lose over the course of approximately a decade.
‘The longer you spend in space, the more bone you lose,’ Boyd said.
The chief of medical research at France’s CNES space agency, Guillemette Gauquelin-Koch, cited the loss of bone density as being caused by the weightlessness of spaceflight.
‘Even with two hours of sport a day, it is like you are bedridden for the other 22 hours. It will not be easy for the crew to set foot on Martian soil when they arrive – it’s very disabling.’