Scientists have long studied the effects of non-terrestrial gravity. While spaceflight is a unique opportunity to study the body’s reaction to zero gravity, it’s expensive and requires long periods of time.
Mexico’s father of space medicine Ramiro Iglesias and cardiologist Jorge Kuri describe how the cardiovascular system reacts to microgravity in this article. They also show that genetic signatures of diseases get altered in zero gravity, which could help assess risks for extended space travel.
Planets of the Universe
The planets of the solar system were known for millennia before the space age allowed us to see them, but it’s only since the 1990s that astronomers have begun systematically seeking worlds like ours around other stars. They do so using a technique that reveals a planet’s size and orbit through periodic dimming in the starlight as it passes by.
There are probably more planets out there than stars, but most of them are too far away for direct observation. Astronomers are also coming up empty in their search for a ninth planet in our own solar system, which has been nicknamed Planet X because of its mysterious nature. A 2022 sky survey involving the Atacama Cosmology Telescope in Chile, however, found thousands of potential candidates—but none turned out to be the elusive object.
Most of the known planets in the universe are well within the Milky Way, though some are even further out. These are called extroplanets, and they are harder to spot because they’re so distant. But the latest research suggests they may be more common than previously thought.
One of the more interesting developments from recent studies is that human cells adapt to zero gravity in less than a minute, even without exercise. This discovery could help scientists develop ways to keep astronauts healthy on long duration space missions.
Another exciting development is that asteroids might hold some of the key to future space travel. Companies such as Planetary Resources are working to figure out how to tap them for water, which can be separated into hydrogen and oxygen for rocket fuel. This is an important step toward creating a sustainable, permanent space outpost, and it might also lead to new drugs for space-related illnesses.
What Is Zero Gravity?
The zero gravity position is a body posture that simulates weightlessness. It’s designed by NASA to help astronauts equalize their weight and ease the stress on their bodies as they prepare to launch into space. When laying down in zero gravity, the spine’s vertebrae are no longer compressed and pressure is relieved from your hips and knees, which can greatly reduce back pain, arthritis symptoms and other health conditions.
The effect is also said to alleviate pre-pregnancy symptoms such as aches and pains in your back, legs and feet. It can also help you sleep better by reducing the effects of common ailments like obstructive sleep apnea and GERD. In fact, a 2017 study found that women who prioritize heart health by sleeping in the zero gravity position are less likely to develop chronic diseases and have higher cognitive function in later life.
Gravity influences almost everything we do on Earth, including the evolution of our cells and how our organs work together. It can also cause a disruption in how our bodies move, which is why researchers are interested in studying the effect of zero gravity on the way humans and animals move, as well as how it affects their cognitive performance.
Scientists can study the effects of zero gravity on their subjects by using parabolic flight. Hundreds of technologies developed with Zero-G’s support have been tested on parabolic flights. These include biomedical and pharmaceutical research, fluid and fundamental physics, materials science and aerospace engineering. Some of these technologies have even gone on to demonstrations on the International Space Station, and others may eventually enable us to travel into deep space. This is an exciting time to be alive!
What Is Microgravity?
The condition of weightlessness, often referred to as microgravity, is when people and objects appear to be floating in space. This is the opposite of gravity, which pulls everything down to Earth. Astronauts can float inside their spacecraft or even outside during a spacewalk. Heavy objects move around easily, and astronauts can move equipment weighing hundreds of pounds with the tip of their finger. It is also possible to create microgravity on Earth by flying a plane up and down in parabolic arcs, similar to the repeated bumps of a roller coaster. This is how the scenes in the movie Apollo 13 were filmed.
It is also possible to create short periods of microgravity using a device called a drop tower, which pumps out air so that the experiment and everything in it falls freely without any resistance from the air. Unfortunately, the type of research that can be done with these devices is limited because it is not very long-lasting. This is because any time there is a break in the experiment, everything begins to fall back down and all of the accumulated forces act to begin pushing it up again.
The most effective way to create long-term microgravity is to go into deep space and reduce the force of gravity to one millionth of what it is on Earth. This is a very difficult thing to accomplish, however, because it requires travelling huge distances. To date, only four interstellar probes have managed to do this. This would be a great way to study the behavior of objects in space without having to worry about gravity’s influence, and it may be necessary for future space exploration missions.
How Does Zero Gravity Feel?
In zero gravity, you feel like you are floating in space. Your body floats upwards, and you can move your legs and arms as you wish. The sensation is similar to that of a bungee jump or a ride on a roller coaster. You can even lose your sense of orientation. Your instincts will tell you that you are falling and you need to reach out, just like the characters in science fiction movies. But, as long as you are able to keep control of yourself and your brain, the feeling is wonderful.
You might think that your ability to sense mass would be affected in zero gravity, but a research experiment found that the inertial cues for gravity remain the same as those of acceleration. This means that your brain can still discriminate between the weight of objects and their size, albeit with less accuracy.
A space-like sleeping position also improves your sleep quality by reducing the pressure on your joints and spine. The elevated position of your feet and the rest of your body removes stress from your back and neck, promoting better circulation and preventing cricks in your neck or unexplained back pain in the morning.
A zero gravity bed may also help with digestion, as it places your upper party higher than your stomach. This helps with proper food absorption, which can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, improving your overall quality of sleep. As a bonus, this position can also reduce symptoms of conditions such as GERD and obstructive sleep apnea. Scientists have also discovered that some genetic signatures of diseases get altered in zero gravity, which may help to assess the risks of long duration space travel.