With the news that the billionaire founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos and his brother Mark will make the first manned spaceflight of the Blue Origin on July 20, and that other space tourists will follow, it’s easy to fall prey to the fact that the tour destined for the world’s wealthiest (tickets have already been quoted at 2.8 billion dollars) can be as simple as a airplane trip. However, zero gravity and other weather beyond the Earth’s surface can wreak havoc on human bodies, such as muscle atrophy and impaired vision. You have to get ready to go into space.
Of course, in Blue Origin’s 11-minute “role” there isn’t enough time to experience such side effects. Still, Bezos’ company and competitors such as Virgin Galactic are demanding that customers take training based on NASA manuals before embarking on the adventure.
Thus, the US National Aerospace Research and Training Center “has already trained about 400 future Virgin Galactic passengers for their voyages,” Glenn King, director of spaceflight training, told AFP. The training takes two days and involves a morning of classes and the use of a centrifuge to simulate the gravitational pull of the launch. “It also serves to prepare yourself mentally for what’s going to happen to you and so that when you’re not serious, you can take advantage of that moment,” says King.
Preparations and precautions for the effects of space should be more intense when longer tourist flights, such as the 3-day year-end planned by SpaceX, begin to take place. According to NASA, astronauts “spend approximately 10 hours underwater for every hour they spend walking in space”, “to maintain muscle strength in space, astronauts practice chest, abdomen and back muscle strengthening activities during and after their missions. Here on Earth, these activities can include swimming, running, weight training, or ground exercise.” Therefore, tourists with longer stopovers are expected to be prepared to live a well-regulated routine before departing.
In a 2019 NASA study, the agency compared the bodies of two twin brothers, one following a normal routine on Earth and the other who had spent a 340-day stint in space. In comparison, the astronaut felt a great number of changes due to his stay in space. His immune system produced new defense mechanisms and he gained two inches in height.
However, his physical performance declined — even with the requirement of two hours of daily exercise on the space station. As a result of the space station’s lack of gravity, his body was weakened: parts of his eyeball became inflamed, his bones became 10 percent thinner, muscles atrophied, and his neck thickened. With this list of effects, the view from above needs to be worth it.