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What is the future of human space flight, and why is it important?

About Human Space Flight

What We Know About Human Space Flight Today

Travel in space exposes the human body to a very different environment from that on Earth.  Soon, many more people than ever before will be making brief recreational and scientific flights into suborbital space just above Earth's atmosphere, while nations around the world also plan for longer manned trips deeper into space to explore and utilize the Earth's moon, asteroids, or even other planets and their moons. These opportunities mean that we need to learn more about how the human body responds to the space flight environment so that we can anticipate health problems, both during flight and upon return to Earth.  We also need to understand how to design vehicles, habitats and spacesuits and how to create and train teams of people to encourage the success of these human missions into space.

 

Sleeping in spaceWe've known that the body of the astronaut changes in multiple, complex ways during space flight since the early days of space travel, and much more will be learned over the next 10 years as we continue to observe astronauts living and working on the International Space Station, which is currently orbiting Earth. Soon after arriving in space, the human sensory-motor system (which provides our balance and sense of spatial orientation) and cardiovascular system (the heart and blood vessels) alter to accommodate the new sensations and the head ward fluid shift that occurs in the weightless environment; thus the astronaut can feel dizzy and motion sick and have head congestion.  As the flight gets longer, bones and muscles can get weaker, because they are no longer being exercised by supporting the body’s weight. The immune system (which helps your body fight off infection) also weakens, making astronauts more likely to get sick if they are exposed to a virus or bacteria.  Exposure to high levels of radiation in space could lead to a higher risk of getting cancer, especially after a long flight, or radiation sickness during even a short flight.  In addition, altered light and dark cycles as you orbit the Earth or another planet, and altered sleep patterns due to the strange new environment, can cause sleep deprivation, which, coupled with the stress associated with being far from Earth, busy schedules, confined conditions, and the small number of people one interacts with day after day, can lead to errors and changes in behavior.  Some of the physical and behavioral changes occurring during space flight may also cause further difficulties upon return to Earth. 

 

Food in spaceWe already have many countermeasures (solutions to the problems) to help minimize the hazards of spaceflight to the human being, such as some remote medical care; a nutrition and exercise program; thoughtfully-designed vehicles, spacesuits, mission plans and tasks; training before spaceflight; Earth-space communications systems; and in flight entertainment. Unfortunately, we still do not clearly understand how and when space affects the human body or the long-term effects of space flight on human health after mission completion. Without that understanding, it is difficult to find the most effective countermeasures to the hazards of human spaceflight and the methods for medical care in the event of an accident or other in flight medical emergency. Thus, future human exploration of space to new destinations and for new purposes will require that we learn about the space environment, the effect space has on the human body, and new vehicles and equipment to allow us to go there.  

 

Apollo missionPast human space exploration has influenced the thinking of scientists, politicians, artists and the general public and has lead to new discoveries and products.  Now it is time to ask you — What is the future of human space exploration and why is it important?

 

To learn more about human spaceflight mission ideas, what happens to the human body in space or what needs to be done to encourage the success of a manned space mission, please explore the following links to further information:

 

Please note that the information summarized above and the website links below provide a good starting point for youth to get background information about human space flight. We encourage any youth to read and explore this information and to identify additional books, articles or electronic information on their own to seek inspiration for their entry to the youth art competition.

General information about space and humans in space

NASA Student Information
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) student information by various age groups. Contains links to all sorts of information such as: short encyclopedia-like articles on various space-related topics (including age-appropriate index listings of links to many other topics), cool photos, videos, podcasts (including NASA EDGE), eClips and more! [Note: you can also search YouTube for a NASA eClip on your favorite subject.]

 

ISSEuropean Space Agency
European Space Agency (ESA) website with human spaceflight and exploration information.  In particular, click on “education” and then check out the secondary level (or the “primary level”) tab, especially ISS education kit on the web” and “lessons online”!

 

JAXA
Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) (in Japanese and English) Human Spaceflight link. Check out the information for students and kids!

 

Canadian Space Agency
Canadian Space Agency (CSA) (in French and English) website. Some of this site is under construction but will have age-specific information available for students soon; also has images and space in my daily life and more!

 

NASA Life Sciences Data Archive
NASA Life Sciences Data Archive (LSDA) youth site. Lots of information about living in space, NASA brain bites, solar system exploration, astronaut selection, etc.

 

How Research Affects Us
How space exploration improves our quality of life and benefits our economy.

Focus solely on humans in space

Living in Space
Space food, wear, work and fun!

 

Human Physiology in Space
An online book from the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) about how the human body changes in space.

 

Human Research Program's "How Astronauts are Affected by Space Exploration"
An overview of the various ways that space affects different parts of the body with summaries and some cool videos.

 

Human Research Program Evidence Book
NASA Human Research Program Evidence book website: written for scientists to explain in detail the types of risks to the human during space exploration missions. Start with the summaries and introductions and then leaf through the reports if you want a really detailed understanding.

 

Living Aloft
All about what it takes to live in space for extended periods of time.

 

Working on the Moon
Apollo experiences with introductions and some technical details about living and working on the moon, including information related to sleep.

Space analogs used to study effects of cramped, extreme and isolated environments on the human and how to best live and work under such conditions

Haughton-Mars Project
Haughton-Mars Project in Haughton Crater on remote Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada: navigation challenges are similar to those that crews of future human exploration missions will face on the moon and Mars.

 

NEEMONASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO)
NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) in Key Largo, Florida: living in Aquarius (a submarine) for up to three weeks to simulate some special conditions of life aboard the International Space Station.

 

British Antarctic Survey
British Antarctic survey of Antarctica, including diaries of living in Antarctica.

 

United States Antarctic Program
Great photos and webcams.

 

Concordia Base
(In Italian, with some English narration) Italian and French Concordia Station in Antarctica, with interesting videos.

 

ESA and Institute of Biomedical Problems and work and sleep
European Space Agency Russian Institute for Biomedical Problems chamber study planned with 6 people in a small space lasting 500 days. Focus of research includes ability to worksleep under stressful conditions as a team in isolation from the rest of the world.

ISS exteriorMore inspiring photos and videos

NASA Images
Searchable images from NASA that can be downloaded and frequently used copyright-free (check exact guidelines on website to be sure). 

 

Astronomy Picture of the Day
Universities Space Research Association (USRA) astronomy picture of the day!

 

We Choose the Moon
A cool animated video that looks real.