Our bodies aren’t built for space; they’re built for a planet a lot like our own. Human beings have evolved here on Earth over millennia, so our bodies have adapted to excel in a gravity environment under the protection of our planet’s atmosphere. In low Earth orbit, however, those ubiquitous elements are taken away, and the body’s various systems adapt accordingly.
Perhaps the biggest change astronauts experience is bone and muscle loss. Humans on Earth work out these systems every day, simply by moving and standing against gravity. But without gravity to work against, the bones lose mineral density and the muscles risk atrophying. It’s something astronauts are consistently trying to prevent from happening. “We try to minimize it as much as possible,” says Bob Tweedy, the countermeasures systems instructor at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. To do that, astronauts on the station work out six out of seven days a week for 2.5 hours each day.
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