Posted on Monday, May 19, 2014
By Kadri

Grappling with Gravity
How Will Life Adapt to Living in Space?

by Robert W. Phillips

Humans have been going to space for more than fifty years, starting with Yuri Gagarin's first orbit around the Earth on the Vostok spacecraft in 1961, and since that time scores of astronauts, cosmonauts and taikonauts have been to near-Earth orbit and some have even reached the Moon. In that time humankind has learned a lot about what happens to the human body during space-flight, and some of the fears that were considered serious threats for humans, like not being able to swallow food or the eye's shape changing have been overcome.

In Robert W. Phillips' book, Grappling with Gravity, one can read mostly about some of the biggest problems that astronauts face in micro-gravity, but it covers other topics related to space travel as well.

Some of the effects that being in space brings about for astronauts have gotten more attention than others – the space adaptation syndrome, a kind of motion sickness experienced by many astronauts, is a usual candidate, as well as the loss of bone-mass and muscle atrophy, that are caused by the bones and muscles not having to do any work against gravity unless the astronauts exercise.

Also the changes that come about in the human body because of the fluids not behaving the same way as they do in a normal 1-G environment, are explained – for example blood wouldn't be pooling in the legs in space as it does on Earth because of gravity, instead, more blood rushes to the head causing the face to look puffier, and other fluids in the human body are causing problems as well – for example it's common to get blocked sinuses in space.

The book is quite interesting as the topics flow from one to another naturally, starting with reasons why mankind should go to space and a bit of the history of spaceflight, and in addition to all of the physiological and psychological problems one might encounter on a spacecraft, it also describes some of the problems that first settlers might face on the Moon or Mars and what can be done to overcome those difficulties.

An even more fascinating topic is reproduction in space – is it possible for humans to reproduce in space in a Martian colony for example and could children who have been born and raised on Mars come and live a normal life on Earth?

Phillips raises a lot of interesting questions and also answers some of them making it an ideal book for those interested in the changes that the human body will experience away from the familiar Earth's environment.

One of the good things about this book is that it is written in a simple way, so it might even be suitable for younger readers who have a little bit of knowledge about how the human body works.

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