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Average People Healthy Enough for Space Travel: Study

Sep 18, 2014 07:28 AM EDT
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A new study suggests that people with common medical problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes, can tolerate space travel.

Historically, space travel has been reserved for the most physically fit people. NASA states that astronauts need to have a blood pressure around 140/90 (which is pre-hypertension, according to this chart).

Commercial space flights promise to enable average people a trip to final frontier, even those who can't pass rigorous physical fitness tests. However, aerospace medicine experts aren't sure whether or not people can tolerate space flights.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston

"Physiological stresses of flight include increased acceleration forces, or 'G-forces,' during launch and re-entry, as well as the microgravity period," said lead author Dr. Rebecca Blue in a news release. "Our goal was to see how average people with common medical problems, who aren't necessarily as fit as a career astronaut, would be able to tolerate these stresses of an anticipated commercial spaceflight."

The researchers found that nearly everyone who had a medical condition that was well-controlled, and was able to tolerate stimulated space flights was fit enough to travel to space.

The team used centrifuge to stimulate space shuttle launch and re-entry. Medical conditions tested in the study included high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, back and neck injuries etc. The researchers found that people, even those with complex medical conditions, tolerated the stimulations; but, were quite uncomfortable. Astronauts use these centrifuge stimulations to train for their space missions.

"This study further supports the belief that, despite significant chronic medical conditions, the dream of spaceflight is one that most people can achieve," said Blue in a news release.

The study is published in the journal Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine.

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