The Sacrifices Space Travellers Make

Spaceflight sounds like a dream to most; like the greatest of adventures. Yet journeying through our solar system requires not only rigorous education and physical training but a host of sacrifices that regular civilians may take for granted when fantasizing about getting up-close and personal with the planets.

Every astronaut knows there is a chance they may never return to Earth, and crews were lost on a number of occasions. On February 1st, 2003, the seven-member crew of the Columbia aircraft lost their lives as they were re-entering Earth’s atmosphere; in 1968, the Challenger crew suffered a fatal explosion of an external tank that would cause the shuttle to fall apart completely; and the crew of the Apollo 1 mission never made it past their launch rehearsal test, when a cabin fire killed all three of them. Let us also remember the famous occupant of the Sputnik 2; the Moscow street dog Laika, who died just a few hours after launch.

Even if you do return to Earth safely, which many have, the time during which you are floating in space, while of course a huge honor, can be long and lonely. The longest lasting space voyage was made by Valeri Polyakov from January 9th, 1994 to March 22nd, 1995; a total of 437 days. That makes over a year of complete isolation, without the comforts of the planet Earth or without gravity to help you keep your feet on the ground.The transition from one gravitational field to the next is harder to make than it sounds, and when astronauts return to Earth after inter-planetary travel, they have to readjust to Earth’s gravity. Your spatial orientation, hand-eye co-ordination, and balance are all deeply affected, and nausea is common. Your bone density, muscle strength and eyesight also endure a lot during the journey, and any damage caused may not be repairable even with physiotherapy and rehabilitation after your return to Earth. Add to this your closed surroundings and certain risks of radiation and the thought of space travel is significantly less glamorous.

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