The Bulletin

Are you healthy enough to be a space tourist?

Posting in Cancer

So, maybe you can afford a ticket to space, but can you handle being exposed to all of the possible ailments that, for the most part, only incredibly healthy astronauts have encountered? ScienceNOW has your preflight checkup.

A future boom in space tourism means you might get to be on short suborbital flights by commercial space operators, weeklong jaunts to the International Space Station, or monthlong stints at orbiting hotels or commercial research labs. In fact, commercial launch companies might expect as many as 13,000 space tourists during their first decade of operation.

So, a team of researchers led by Marlene Grenon from the University of California, San Francisco, surveyed previous studies of space medicine and compiled a list of considerations for doctors – alerting them to the wide variety of ways that spaceflight might aggravate preexisting conditions in their patients.

First of all, almost no bodily function is spared.

However, most of these ailments could be managed with drugs or specific kinds of exercise while in orbit.

  • Short flights might trigger motion sickness, headaches, and sinus congestion.
  • Long-term flights might exacerbate osteoporosis, back pain, acid reflux, and certain types of cancer, as well as increase the risk of infections and kidney stones.

The work was published in BMJ this week.

[Via ScienceNOW]

Image: tourists at Kennedy Space Center / J. Fang

— By on December 13, 2012, 3:24 PM PST

Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure