Warning, Astronauts: You Might Return from Space Bloated and Bald

By Boonsri Dickinson | June 8, 2009 4:00 pm

star-trek.jpgIn reality Chris Pine’s character in Star Trek might well have looked more like Seinfeld’s George Costanza—that is, if the makers of the sci-fi flick had considered the fact that long-term space travel is likely to make a person look fat and ugly.

Besides food and water, humans need gravity in order to look normal—without it, our muscles would wither away, our bones wouldn’t develop properly, and our faces would become bloated. According to astrobiologist Lewis Dartnell at the University College London, when a person is in space for an extended amount of time, fluids that are normally kept in the lower limbs start to accumulate in the head, causing it to swell up. The hair would fall out, because hair is no longer needed to help keep the bodywarm. To top it all off, astronauts could expect the onset of space-obesity, the result of a lack of exercise in microgravity.

Granted, the extreme effects of zero G would likely only kick in if the astronauts lived in space for a year or more.

A decline in appearance isn’t the only Debbie Downer about space travel: It can also make you sick. Even on short trips, astronauts have complained about “exploding” headaches en route to and from the International Space Station. They’re a result of “puffy face syndrome” and the lack of gravity, causing fluids to shift from lower parts of body to other areas.

But you don’t necessarily need a ticket to space to know what a space headache feels like —you can get them here on Earth.

Related Content:
80beats: Zero-G Makes Astronauts As Wimpy As 80-Year-Olds
DISCOVER: Biocentric Universe

Image: flickr/ skookums

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Aliens Therefrom
MORE ABOUT: astronauts, obesity, space
  • Joel

    So Wall-E basically got it right, then?

  • Scott

    Just have to point out that in the Star Trek universe, the Federation ships have artificial gravity.

  • QUASAR

    A zero gravity environment slowly weakens the human body until you have all the strngth of a balerina!

  • C H

    QUASAR, have you ever watched a ballerina? Not a good analogy…

    Also, Scott & Star Trek got it right, while Wall-E and this blog fail to consider the effects of artificial gravity.

    I bet if/when humans do finally go to another planet that they’ll do it in a ship that spins to generate artificial gravity. Otherwise, even Mars’ 38%-Earth gravity would incapacitate us on landing.

  • C H

    One other thing – he says “hair would fall out, because hair is no longer needed to help keep the body warm.”

    That’s just stupid – do people who live nearer the poles go bald less than people who live near the equator? Has the advent of central heating and air changed rates of baldness?

    Give me a break…

  • Gary Ansorg

    C H, just like the spacecraft in that Discovery Channel film ‘Race to Mars’ or the Leonov in the 2010 film!

  • hopefulever

    Sorry to do this, but it’s Christopher PIKE.

  • hopefulever

    Or, and I just thought of this, were you referring to the actor in the new Star Trek movie? If so, I’m really sorry, as I thought you were referring to the character Captain Christopher Pike. More fool me!

  • Pingback: New Document Reveals Nixon Prepared for Aldrin, Armstrong Deaths | Discoblog | Discover Magazine

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