Scientists have created a "second skin" for astronauts, effectively simulating gravity
Long stay in microgravity leads directly to a variety of health problems in astronauts. Among these problems, such as - loss of bone density and muscle atrophy. But there is one feature: a man in free fall becomes higher, as the impact of reduced gravity causes it to stretch the spine. Of course, many of us would have been higher, but in space it can become a real problem, because this tension can cause pain.
The King's College London completed testing of a new version of a special suit SkinSuit, designed to solve this problem. Results of recent trials have not yet been published in the public domain, but the scientists say about the very positive results.
Life and work astronauts in microgravity aboard the International Space Station 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, radically different from the usual 24-hour cycle every person on Earth. In our back under the earth's gravity rests when we sleep. Sleep in a prone position allows the space between the intervertebral disks filled with synovial fluid. It allows our bones and joints a break from the stress that they experienced during the day, and also cleanses the body from unnecessary substances and accelerates cell metabolism. Every time we wake up, we are a little bit higher, but only for a while. During the day, the force of gravity makes our spinal discs again converge, we lose an average of 1, 5 centimeters of growth and become the same as they were before. As part of our back again next sleep cycle is extended, and so is repeated from time to time. As for space, then there are cases where the human spine stretched up to 7 centimeters.
"On Earth, when you stand on your feet, you presses not only its own weight, but also the force of gravity. Then, when you go to bed, your back is stretched - this is a normal cyclical process ", - explains the head of the study, David Green.
In microgravity, the astronaut back never shrinks under the influence of gravity and is always relaxed, stretched state. As a result, there are frequent pain in the back.
"In space, no gravity load, so the space between the intervertebral discs is constantly increasing, the natural curvature of the spine is reduced, and the supporting back muscles and ligaments, which no longer needs to resist gravity, begin to atrophy and weaken," - continues Green.
SkinSuit suit, developed by over the last several years has been the Center for Space Medicine European Space Agency and King's College London, based on the achievements of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). As the base material it uses spandex, which acts as simulated gravity and exerts pressure on the whole body, from the shoulder to the feet and.
Astronauts of the European Space Agency have tested SkinSuit suit within the parabolic flights on an airplane (which simulates weightlessness), as well as on board the ISS. Photo CNES / Novespace, 2014
costume Efficiency checked on board the ISS astronaut Andreas Mogensen Danish and French astronaut Tom Sand. However, the first version of the suit astronauts sneaking a very short time. It is very inconvenient and the shackles he was.
"The first concepts were really uncomfortable. They provide about 80 percent of the level of gravity load, but you can wear them was only a couple of hours, "- said researcher Philip Carvilius.
The suit has been decided to modify. In addition, the researchers created a special "water bed", a half-filled with water rich in magnesium salts. It was used as a kind of environment to simulate the effects of microgravity on the body that astronauts experience in space. Scientists have assembled the reception at the Dead Sea, where high salt concentration allows a person to literally lie on the surface of the water.
"During our more long-term tests, we observed an increase in human growth similar to the phenomenon, which is peculiar to the space environment. In other words, we were able to achieve the effect of microgravity at least on the issue of human exposure to the spine, "- explains the researcher Philip Carvilius.
Costume SkinSuit went through several stages of improvement, to become not only more comfortable, but also an effective
Attracting college students as test new versions of the costume helped to increase its effectiveness. At first, the volunteers were asked to lie down on a "water bed" that simulates microgravity environment. First, without a costume and then dressed in SkinSuit. Then scientists conducted MRI scanning and checking efficiency. As a result, the suit has passed through several stages of modernization, which made it more comfortable, wearable and efficient. Currently the latest version is SkinSuit Design Mark VI.
"Version SkinSuit Mark VI was very comfortable. So easy that it does not actually feel on the body, even after prolonged wear, physical activity or during sleep, "- says Carvilius.
"The latest version provides roughly 20 percent of the gravitational load that bit more than in lunar gravity. In turn, this is enough to back felt the desired effect of gravity and has always been in good shape. "
"The results of our tests have not yet been published, but it seems that the version of the suit SkinSuit Mk VI is very effective to compensate for the spine stretch effect. In addition to this, we learned a lot about the basic physiological processes and the importance of the load distribution on the spine "- Philip added.