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Top 10 Ways the Space Station is Helping Get Us to Mars

Top 10 Ways the Space Station is Helping Get Us to Mars

Believe it or not, the International Space Station is paving our way to Mars. Being the only microgravity laboratory in which long-duration investigations can take place, it provides deeper understanding of how the human body reacts to long-term spaceflight. Here are the top 10 ways the space station is helping us on our journey to the Red Planet:

10: Communication Delays

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Have you ever sent a text and got frustrated when it took longer than 3 seconds to send? Imaging communicating from Mars where round-trip delays could take up to 31 minutes! Our Comm Delay Assessment studies the effects of delayed communications for interplanetary crews that have to handle medical and other emergencies in deep space.

9. Astronaut Functional Performance

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After a long nights sleep, do you ever feel a bit clumsy when you first get out of bed? Imagine how crew members might feel after spending six months to a year in microgravity! Our Field Test investigation is working to understand the extend of physical changes in astronauts who live in space for long periods of time, with an aim toward improving recovery time and developing injury prevention methods for future missions.

8. Psychological Impacts of Isolation and Confinement

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In order to study the behavioral issues associated with isolation and confinement, researchers evaluate the personal journals of space station crew members. These study results provide information to help prepare us for longer duration spaceflight.

7. Impacts on Vision

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Did you know that long duration spaceflight can often cause changes to crew members’ vision? It can, and our Ocular Health study monitors microgravity-induced visual impairment, as well as changes believed to arise from elevated intracranial pressure. All of this work hopes to characterize how living in microgravity can affect the visual, vascular and central nervous systems.

6. Immune Responses

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An important aspect of our journey to Mars is the need to understand how long-duration spaceflight affects they way crew members’ bodies defend agains pathogens. Our Integrated Immune investigation collects and analyzes blood, urine and saliva samples from crew members before, during and after spaceflight to monitor changes in the immune system.

5. Food for Long-Duration Crews

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Just like a hiker preparing for a long trek, packing the foods that will give you the most energy for the longest amount of time is key to your success. This is also true for astronauts on long-duration missions. Our Energy investigation measures a crew members’ energy requirements, which is a crucial factor needed for sending the correct amount of the right types of food to space.

4. Exercise for Long-Term Missions

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Rigorous exercise is already a regular part of astronauts’ routines, and continuing that focus will be critical to keeping crew members’ bodies strong and ready for a mission to Mars and a healthy return to Earth. Our Sprint investigation is studying the best combination of intensity and duration for exercise in space.

3. Determine Best Habitat/Environment for Crews

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Have you ever complained about your room being too small? Imagine living in cramped quarters with an entire crew for months on a Mars mission! Our Habitability investigation collects observations that will help spacecraft designers understand how much habitable volume is required, and whether a mission’s duration impacts how much space crew members need.

2. Growing Food in Space

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There’s nothing like fresh food. Not only does it provide valuable nutrition for astronauts, but can also offer psychological benefits from tending and harvesting the crops. Our Veggie investigation studies how to best utilize a facility aboard the space station for growing fresh produce in microgravity.

1. Manufacturing Items in Space

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When crews head to Mars, there may be items that are unanticipated or that break during the mission. Our 3-D Printing in Zero-G Technology Demonstration would give crews the ability to manufacture new objects on demand while in space.

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