The medical implications of space tourism

This article from the British Medical Journal should give aspiring space tourists some food for thought. The basic gist: Traveling into the heavens is not really comparable, physically and medically, to Earth-bound travel. In fact, up until now, extreme physical fitness has been a major factor in how we select space travelers. What happens when less-fit people start flying? What happens to sick people? These are questions that matter a lot, given the fact that current astronauts report everything from reduced eyesight to potentially dangerous immune system changes. (Via The Inkfish blog)


    1. One of my favorite scenes in “Contact” is S.R. Hadden talking to Ellie from Space. Apparently gravity affects cancer growth. I’ve often wondered if this is accurate.

  1. I seriously doubt that this will be a big deal.  If the super rich start going to space and the Chris Chrsities and Rash Limbaughs die of “Space Related Complications”…. 

    1.  We will all be better off.
    2.  The smart rich will stop going if they are not fit.
    3.  The dumber rich will continue to go to space (see #1)
    4.  WTF are we worrying about this?  Really now.  We have serious social issues in the USA as well as global environmental issues and this “hypothetical problem”  (more like a partial solution) is “news”?

  2. A lot of space tourism will actually be in spaceplanes flying just high enough to see the curvature of the horizon and get a few minutes of weightlessness. Unlikely to cause any medical problems beyond nausea. The kind of money rich people will throw away on this has me sick to stomach already.

  3. Oh great, there science goes popping my space-tourism bubble again.

    On a more serious note I’ve often wondered not so much about space tourism but the possibilities of long-term life in space. Whenever I read Rendezvous With Rama or a similar book I always wonder if it would be possible for people to live, perhaps to even be born and live their allotted three score and ten on the Moon or Mars. Clarke notes that in most cases people that live in other parts of the solar system will never be able to return to or even visit Earth, but is life on Mars even feasible? 

    1. Not yet. We can’t even build a self-sustaining base on Antarctica, where temperatures are comparable but air and water are abundant.

      1. Call me short-sighted, but I hadn’t even thought about water and air, important as they are. I always take it as kind of a given that ways to produce/retain enough water and air, as well as food, have been found. Otherwise I don’t think even some of the trips would be feasible.

        What I wonder about is gravity. Could humans even survive for long periods, let alone reproduce, in places where the gravity is a fraction of what it is on Earth?

    2. is life on Mars even feasible?

      With sufficient investment, yes. The problem is that the scale required is one or two orders of magnitude greater than we could currently consider delivering to the Mars surface.

  4. I’ve been thinking for days about the fact that people climb mount Everest, walking right past the frozen corpses of people who didn’t make it. Knowing this, rich people who have the time and money for such a trip continue to attempt this climb even without being fit enough to make it. This is one of those things that just “fit” is not enough, right? You have to be very fit, have a certain attitude, a certain level of training in advance, and plenty of money. It costs $25,000 just for a climbing permit. And yet, there they go, climbing up that mountain! The youngest person to make the ascent was 13 years old (in 2010). But this year, according to one source, there were already 10 confirmed deaths on the mountain by May!! 

    So, if people are willing to put their life on the line for the climb of a lifetime — and even put the lives of their children on the line for such a climb — how much more will they be willing to put their lives on the line for a trip into SPACE?

    1. You used to be able to take a helicopter pretty high up Everest, Base Camp maybe, and then get out and look around. They stopped the service after a few aged, out of shape businessmen died very rapidly of altitude sickness.

  5. This has been something fermenting in the back of my mind for a while, ever since space tourism for the excruciatingly rich became available.  Assuming I could ever afford to go into space, even for half an hour, would I want to?  I am a sci-fi geek from way back when (ST:TOS), and the idea of space flight is thrilling; if I got a chance to be a colonist on the Moon or Mars, it would definitely make me think hard about the prospect.  OTOH, I’m definitely not ripped, and while I might be able to tough out a few days in orbit, would it be worth it? 

  6. If you want a solution to these space-humours, just stick the 5 richest people on earth up there and you’ll have a cure in 3 months!!!

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