By Tom Hill, The Space Review, 05.29.12
Dragon’s (so far) successful flight has opened many opportunities in space. Its small size, low cost, and plans for frequent flights allow it to play a role in many facets of
While current efforts in space are being slowed by debates over costs, preferred methods, and destinations, there are bigger concerns for long-term space habitation. Winds of political will change for better or for worse in the span of a couple years, but two constant challenges await anyone who ventures beyond the atmosphere for a long period of time: the lack of gravity, which changes physiology with especially strong impacts on muscles and bones; and radiation, which raises the risk of cancer and has other effects over time.
The lack-of-gravity question has been the focus of NASA’s research since the end of the Apollo program. Through years of on-orbit research in the form of exercise routines and attempted medical interventions, the space agencies of the world have tried to understand the human body’s reaction to microgravity, and to find a way to counteract it.
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