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Staying fit in zero gravity


10-17-2016 07:11 BJT

Full coverage: China Tiangong-2 Space Lab Launch

A big concern for authorities is ensuring the mental and physical health of astronauts during extended missions to space. This is the first time that China is sending astronauts to space for 30 days. Staying healthy will be a big challenge. In this report, we examine the steps being taken to ensure the well-being of crew members.

The astronauts have to learn to adapt to weightlessness, which can be uncomfortable. A treadmill designed for zero gravity will help astronauts stay fit.

Running in space can be complicated. On earth, gravity pulls peoples' bodies to the ground. Simulating these conditions in a weightless environment is tough. Scientists have designed equipment astronauts can wear that will help mimic the forces involved in running on earth.

"During this mission, we will have running machines in outer-space. Astronauts have used the machine to train here on earth. We established a system of so-called zero-gravity modifying training for research. We can use the system to make running plans for the astronauts, and the astronauts in the meantime can use the system for training," Li Zhili, scientist of Space Medicine Fundamentals and Application, said.

The astronauts will be in space for a long time, which means they will be exposed to a low-gravity environment. There is a high risk of a deterioration in their cardiovascular fitness. This can lead to a weaker immune system, cardio-pulmonary function and the loss of bone calcium. It is reported that over 60 kinds of diseases have appeared in the history of manned space flight. Scientists have inspected the physical condition of the astronauts before launch and improved their medical training.

"The training was targeted for the astronauts because if they find problems in space, they are the only ones who can diagnose and treat themselves. The training is strict and systematic," Wu Bin, chief of China Astronaut Medical Insurance Department, said.

Apart from the physical toll, astronauts also have to deal with being far away from families and friends. Psychological problems are also a concern.

"We have set up a psychological soothing system. We will let the astronauts listen to national anthems and their favorite music. They will also be able to see their families, which will help them adjust to the environment," Huang Weifen, designer of China Manned Space Project, said.

Right before they depart, the astronauts will be examined by traditional Chinese nurses. They will also be in medical meetings to make sure they are as fit as the space craft that will take them to the sky.

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