How does this compare?
It would be interesting to compare this to some of the jobs here on earth. I wouldn't be surprised if some are worse off.
Floating silently among the stars may sound idyllic, but the longer you stay in space, the worse it is for your immune system, according to this latest research. NASA teamed up with boffins at the University of Arizona, University of Houston, and Louisiana State University, in the US, to analyse blood samples from eight …
This is a very good point - however the comparison turns out, it would provide a point of reference to get a sense of what the additional risk might be.
"I don't mind being a coal miner, but becoming a career astronaut is far too risky!" :-)
Indeed. For starters the NK activity drop is not dramatically higher than observed in shift workers (and in subjects in sleep-deprivation studies). Unsurprisingly astronauts on-mission are routinely sleep-deprived too: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laneur/article/PIIS1474-4422(14)70122-X/fulltext
It sounds like there could be some additional effect but it's strange this new study doesn't mention sleep once in 33 pages.
It sounds like there could be some additional effect but it's strange this new study doesn't mention sleep once in 33 pages.
That's because the scientists carrying out the study are looking for results that are NEW and EXCITING and SPAAAACE and WOO!, and anything so mundane as sleep deprivation doesn't fit into the narrative...
Sorry, I went a bit Bombastic Bob there.
I think the comparison between veterans and rookies is compelling enough to suggest that it's not being in space, but dealing with the stress-related effects on the immune system, and YES compare this to other high stress professions like the military, police, fire, ambulance, and trial lawyers. Yeah, no kidding!
This is the kind of study that would make an _outstanding_ doctoral thesis for med students. The effects of stress and inexperience in a high stress occupation, not just space itself, on blood chemistry and the immune system, and *IS* space *REALLY* a factor?
You are largely correct: the particular disease that took them down isn't specified (the narrator says 'bacteria', but I am not sure they differentiated between bacteria and viri back then, or even if medical scientists did, if the journalist-narrator would).
"But there are no bacteria in Mars, and directly these invaders arrived, directly they drank and fed, our microscopic allies began to work their overthrow."
Though since the story is explicitly presented as the narrator's interpretation of events, and since he didn't have access to the details of conditions on mars, what he described could have been an educated guess and it could actually have been space-travel-immune-defficiency. .... Or that the Martians had bought whole-sale into the Anti-Vaxer movement, for that matter! :-P
The problem with that is: would an earthly virus or bacterium even be able to infect an alien lifeform? Given the relatively low cross infection rates in different terrestrial species it's very unlikely that they could colonise something which would be so biologically different. Death due to a native Martian infection compounded by reduced immunity caused by prolonged space travel is much more likely. Though given that the book is based in early 1900's science they could conceivably mistake the deaths as being caused by terrestrial means.
Viruses are fairly DNA specific and related to particular range of hosts. The origin may even be broken host DNA.
Most bacteria are harmless. Many can feed on any suitable nutrient so much less species specific. Many are beneficial. Often it's the by-products that are poisonous.
Other biological risks are yeasts, fungus, amoeba, parasites (often narrower in range of hosts), insects and related bites that are poisonous or cause allergic reaction (spiders vs bees) and the largest are predators or antagonised herbivores. The Komodo dragon is unusual as it bites or scratches prey and then follows it waiting for it to die of blood poisoning, a symbioses with bacteria?
I researched all this to write SF. It's unlikely aliens would get the amino acids and vitamins they need, or we would eating their food. Even here vitamin needs and amino acids can be species specific. Few need vitamin C, some need vitamins that are not used by humans. Cats have more deficiencies than dogs on a vegan diet, they'll die on it without additives.
Sugar is simple, some fats are simple. Many Alien carbohydrates, fats and some proteins might be digestible to an extent (or ours by them). Without at least added vitamins and amino acids we'd die. Looking at weird life here suggest the reverse might be true for Aliens, or at least few foods might give trace things they really really need.
You'd die living only on rabbit.
It was just a story.
However most poison by products of a bacteria might be generally toxic, like hydrogen cyanide.
The blood might have proteins, fat, glucose etc, probably generally utilisable. Blood can be used as a fertiliser for plants. It's mostly water. The main thing after that is protein. Low in fat and sugars. Some vitamins (possibly no use to aliens).
Blood is the only animal product mentioned in the bible forbidden to Noah (not Jewish), Jews and Christians of Gentile origin in the book of Acts (No doubt because of the Covenant with Noah). "The life is in the blood".
I've no idea why H.G. Wells picked blood. Curiously the ships mentioned were already obsolete when he wrote the story (1897).
"The quick pace of change meant that many ships were obsolete as soon as they were finished, and that naval tactics were in a state of flux. Many ironclads were built to make use of the ram or the torpedo, which a number of naval designers considered the important weapons of naval combat. There is no clear end to the ironclad period, but towards the end of the 1890s the term ironclad dropped out of use. New ships were increasingly constructed to a standard pattern and designated battleships or armored cruisers." — Wikipedia. Also stated elsewhere.
>The problem with that is: would an earthly virus or bacterium even be able to infect an alien lifeform?
In the case of Mars this is considered theoretically possible. Rocks from Earth are now found on the moon. Rocks from Mars have been found on Earth. Life bearing rocks from Earth could then also have reached Mars. In that case life on Mars may have some compatibility with life on Earth (chirality, for instance) to the extent scientists want to be cautious.
It even goes the other way, some readings suggests Mars cooled down faster than Earth and this life could have started on Mars and then transplanted by ejected rocks to Earth at a time when out planet had cooled down.
So for life within our solar system we have good reasons to be cautious. For alien life on Alpha Centauri it might be a lot safer.
The researchers are unsure why old-timers – one participant had spent a whopping 340 days in space – had stronger immune systems compared to first-timers in space. It could be down to age, or the stresses of adapting to a new, unfamiliar environment.
There's that old saying... "If it doesn't kill you, it will make you stronger".
So repeated exposure to space would help your immune system from degenerating in space.
So we should be shuttling candidates routinely up and down from ISS as part of their training....
You might be right about repeated exposure. The wihte cells that survive come back stronger. Rinse and repeat. The 'nauts with the low count should be tested again to see if the white cell count goes up after being here on Earth for a bit.
Footnote: no where did I read that these tests were ongoing so the one who white cell count was "normal" may have regenerated or maybe it's something else. When someone says something like: "That's odd"... it merits more investigation.
You know in good time who the chosen 'nauts are.
Six months to launch, take some NK cells out of their body, grow them on in the lab, whilst the body naturally replenishes them.
A day or two before lift off inject the NK cells back into the body. Packing them in.
Double the benefit, they're healthier for the journey AND they get to the finish line, Mars, that much quicker.
Oh, and pack plenty of ginseng tea for the journey.
This is a ludicrous idea. It's obvious what we do.
Every couple of months we inject one astronaut with a different disease. Say the common cold. This gives a nice work-out for all their immune systems. We then pack them a box of hot honey and lemon drinks plus tissues or perhaps a small hoover to clip over the nose and hoover up the bogey to avoid it floating around the ISS... You know it makes sense.
"So we were able to just split them in half to see if there was an effect, and there was. The 'rookies' had greater drops in NK-cell function compared to the veterans."
"Unfortunately they are all dead due to splitting them in half. Next time we'll amend the protocol to experiment on the 2 groups separately", they added.
It could just be boredom. The immune system is all sad and lonely with nothing to do in a sealed can as far as humanly possible from 4-year-olds, aka cute plague carriers.
Plus the stress of an environment that's never silent, where sleep patterns are disturbed and lack of gravity is messing with many of the body's other systems.
Well, exposure to ionizing radiation is _known_ to have various effects on blood, and that's the most likely candidate. HOWEVER, if the effect of 'first time' stress is HIGHER than that of radiation, it would make an appropriate study VERY interesting... (and perhaps demand a series of shorter trips before the long one, to improve astronaut health).
Ionizing radiation [as well as certain kinds of infections, poisonous substances, etc.] more easily kill cells that multiply rapidly. This is why radiation has been used to treat cancer, because cancer cells will die with somewhat lower exposure levels than regular cells. The villi in the intestines, certain kinds of connective tissue in skin, and immune cells are all candidates for radiation susceptibility. So typical symptoms of radiation exposure include "NVD" (Nausea, Vomiting, Diarrhea), skin edema [due to breakdown of connective tissues, fluid buildup in the skin), and blood chemistry changes.
In order to go into space you must be in perfect physical health, so you can adapt to maneuvering around a spaceship with your hands, not being able to sense which way is up or down, breathing through one tube and pooping through another.
People with lifelong experience of maneuvering with their hands, who never could sense of up or down, who already regularly breathe or poop through tubes, those people need not apply.
The good lady wife and I (49 and 52 respectively) have done our bit on this blue dot. Son is healthy, working. No other dependents. She has progressing MS, so fuck all to look forward to in Brexit Britain over the next 20 years.
We've both agreed we'd be on the next flight up, if they'd have us.
Happy to wear any logos or look towards sponsorship deals. Hell, I'd even plug that twatbadger Tim Martins Wetherspoons shite if it meant slipping the surly bonds of earth.
She has progressing MS, so fuck all to look forward to in Brexit Britain over the next 20 years.
Because her MS would be so much better if we remain in the EU? I'm not sure you've got that quite right. It's just possible you're conflating entirely seperate issues, no?
Undoubtedly the genius scientists investigating this haven't thought about the fact that living in a sterile environment means that the body needs less HK cells, and therefore produces less HK cells? Reminds me of overly protective mothers who sterilise everything continuously and yet can't understand why their little darlings end up with every allergy under the sun. We humans are designed to live in a bacteria/virus infested miasma, so putting us in any kind of sterile environment is counter productive. That said, before man can live away from this planet for extended periods, we need to get better radiation shielding or else just accept the increase in mutations in ourselves and our biosphere.
"Just wondering if we could create an artifitial magnetic field arround our interstellar spacecraft to mitigate the radiation issues"
That would help against charged particles, but not neutrons nor gamma. For it to work against those, you'd need a lot of other particles trapped in there, too. That happens to be the case with the Van Allen belts, though.
Neutrons are particularly bad in that they case things to _become_ radioactive, or change the atom into something else (even if temporarily, like Nitrogen 16 from Oxygen in water that is exposed to a high neutron flux, as in a nuclear reactor, which after a few seconds, turns back into Oxygen 16, but you can easily measure the additional radioactivity just from the decay of N-16 to O-16).
High energy gamma radiation can disassociate chemical bonds, effectively 'cracking' them, or cause oddball recombinations of chemicals that would otherwise not form [this is, I believe, the mechanism by how radiation kills a living cell]. Anything that's considered "ionizing" will do this, more or less.
The best way to shield against gamma radiation is mass. Gamma interacts with atoms of high mass by ionizing the electrons, 'exciting' them, and they either absorb it [heating] or spit out lower energy gammas [scattering]. Other particles like free electrons, protons, and alpha, will be shielded by relatively thin layers of material, so you won't need a magnetic field at all - just need a decent hull on a ship, or a suit made of some kind of thick material for those.
Neutron shielding needs to scatter the neutrons and possibly absorb them. Materials that absorb neutrons are well known, boron and hafnium being two of them [used in nuclear reactors to control reactions, for example]. These materials deplete as they absorb neutrons, though, so they have finite life. And you might have to 'scatter' neutrons to bring the energy level to the right point to be absorbed. This means hydrogenous material to maximize the energy decrement per collision with a neutron.
Anyway, the magnetic idea isn't bad when you consider the Van Allen belts, but it's the ions they trap that are doing the shielding, and not the actual magnetic field. Actually, though, if a nuclear rocket had water as a propellant, and you could keep it from freezing, the water would be really good radiation shielding from the sun [and the rocket engine itself] - just keep it oriented 'that way' while coasting. actually liquid H2 would work the same way more or less for neutrons, but you would need something a bit denser to help shield gamma.
Some of those are pretty rare.
So the premise that us oldies would survive is IMHO wrong.
I got one of these (HCL) aged 54. This one is very slow growing (5-7 years but undetectable until year 4) and it totally fucked up my body for almost a year after I finished chemo.
Good luck going to Mars if you have it growing inside your body.
I think I have read an article about this somewhere ( I will attempt to find it ) but pretty sure the answer was a lot - in a "1.21 GW? Great Scott!" kind of way. With, reference to a_mu's comment, it was "if you can lift a reactor big enough to provide it, you'd be better off just living inside the reactor shell - that'll shield you just fine" kind of size.
A superconducting magnet as found in MRI machines do not require power to run, the supercurrent will run as long as the magnet's coil remains cold.
A magnetic field will deflect alpha and beta particles but not X-rays, gamma radiation and neutron flux. And I am not sure all experiments on board will take well to a strong magnetic field.
well, it kinda works like this:
For high energy gamma, 1 inch of lead or 2 inches of steel is an approximat "tenth thickness"; that is, with that much material between you and a source of radiation, on the shielded side the dose rate is about 1/10 of what it is on the unshielded side. For water, it's 3 feet if I remember correctly. I think concrete and dirt is 1 foot.
For neutrons the numbers change. Lead and steel don't do diddly squat for neutrons, and water and plastic have a tenth thickness of around 1 foot. If you include neutron absorbing material you can reduce it significantly, though - however, the shielding would deplete over time and become less effective the more it's exposed to neutron flux.
The idea of having a double-hull with water in between isn't bad. Plastic or oil might actually work better, though [but cost more]. I guess a returning space ship could deliver its extra shield water to a space station, to be used for 'whatever'. But the extra mass would be a heavy penalty in fuel. And now you could probably calculate how thick it would all need to be...
Pondering idly on this yesternight, and it occurred to me that mounting your BFO rockets on an asteroid, and building the cabin space at the front would allow you to go to Mars protected by hundreds of metres of rock. Cleverly (FSVO of "clever") avoiding the cost of having to haul up the shielding from Earth.
The wife used to be a total NASA enthusiast.
I took her to Houston for her birthday, and, devil hands know no rest, I idly shared with her the nonsense about the expense (16,000 employees?) when anybody who knew any "Science" already was aware quite a while back that a trip to Mars was not practical, ever, due to the simple concept of the cost of lugging up enough shielding, thereabouts twice the amount of everything that has been sent to space to date. (My own fav is water - useful by itself, but why not an asteroid, if we are going for silly - hundreds of meters of rock, d'you know how much beyond calculable it would cost to power that mass into a controllable orbit? Still, cheaper than an artificial magnetosphere)
Wife wasn't pleased to have her NASA views messed up, as she got to research, and, alas, find out that this time hubby was right, even though it was obvious that these basic principles and facts were far from being published among "official" mainline "Mars Mission" websites. Giving her a vacuum as a birthday gift might have been better (a recent El Reg comment thread). The AirBNB was a disaster also, no NASA fault, that.
Of course, the pearl of the visit was watching that Russian (renter of NASA facilities?) riding with a young girl passenger one of those zillion-dollar all-wheel-control vehicles at top speed in a parking lot. How much fun. How much Science. NASA. Yay!
The researchers are unsure why old-timers – one participant had spent a whopping 340 days in space – had stronger immune systems compared to first-timers in space.
if I get this right, "something" up there is different, worse now than it used to be in the past. Hmmm. Global warming increasing due to some space something?
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