How will astronauts sleep during their trip to Mars?
During their flights, astronauts face many challenges, most notably getting enough sleep. But the space crews spent 23 years working aboard the International Space Station contributed to benefiting from their experiences in order to reduce the possibility of astronauts suffering from sleep problems on their first manned trips to Mars.
Most people think that the main problem with astronauts is the lack of gravity, which causes the astronaut to float out of his bed. Not to worry, because the biggest challenges they can face is their sleep environment and creating a natural sleep cycle. In zero gravity, they have special restraint systems to prevent them from floating in the space station while they sleep.
Erin Flynn Evans, director of the Antistress Measures Laboratory at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California, says astronauts have dark, quiet and crew quarters on the space station where they can get a good night’s sleep, but that won’t be the case. Always on other space missions.” The Orion capsules that will be used on future Artemis missions are small vehicles with limited space for the crew and sleeping bags for rest periods. “Think of it like camping, if it takes a few days, maybe It won’t be a big problem. But the longer you’re in a tight spot with someone, the more confusing it can get.”
And while the space station provides stunning views of the globe, the sunrise, which astronauts see 16 times a day, can affect the circadian rhythm that controls an individual’s sleep-wake cycles. “Light is what resets our circadian rhythm and prepares us for the day-night cycle, but we face many challenges in space,” says Flynn Evans.
The space station revolves around the Earth every 90 minutes, and instead of forcing astronauts to adapt to such a strange cycle, NASA experts provided the interior of the space station with lighting that mimics what humans experience on a normal day on Earth. “We have to try to block the light out of the windows at night, and maximize the light in the daytime, either through the windows or through the interior lights, to make sure the crew are able to stay awake and sleep at the right times,” says Erin Flynn-Evans.
Astronauts’ sleep schedules change in the days leading up to launch depending on the time of day and time zone they’re launching from. According to Flynn Evans, once they arrive at the space station, each astronaut is adjusted to Greenwich Mean Time, which is “a nice compromise between all participating nations.”
In the Antistress Actions Lab, Flynn Evans and her colleagues are developing tools to help astronauts manage sleep problems. These include controlling when the astronauts are exposed to blue light, the wavelength of the circadian rhythm basal synchronization, and when blue light is reduced to help them sleep. Also schedule naps or stay up nights to accommodate schedule changes.
The same tips that help astronauts sleep while on Earth, including maintaining a regular wake-up and sleeping schedule as much as possible, and limiting exposure to blue light from TVs, computers, tablets, smartphones, etc., apply ahead of time. sleep.
Although the scientists have sleep data from several years of spaceflight, they are running simulations on Earth that allow for more control. That environment simulates the size of a lunar station, or small spacecraft, that can accommodate crews of four for long periods of time. Flynn Evans participated in a study in which she spent 45 days with staff and was restricted to five hours of sleep during the week, and eight hours on the weekends, in order to test alertness and performance.
The results of the experiment showed that if crew members only got five hours of sleep a night, they needed more opportunities to catch up on subsequent nights to prevent the ill effects of sleep deprivation. The current requirement is that crew members get eight and a half hours of sleep each night on missions to avoid long-term lack of sleep and errors caused by fatigue and health complications, according to NASA.
In June, NASA will begin the first experiment of a 3D-printed first-flight-to-Mars environment at Johnson Space Center called the Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog, or CHAPEA.
A crew of four will live and work in the 1,700-square-foot (158-square-meter) space for an entire year. The first experiment focuses on nutrition, but Flynn-Evans and her fellow researchers will also monitor how well the crew sleeps.
This type of experiment allows scientists to simulate the surprises that might occur on a real mission to the Moon or Mars, such as limited resources, failed equipment, communication issues, and more. However, there are still many unknowns about being in Martian time, such as how the time shift affects the human body’s metabolism.
In conclusion, if the mechanism of adaptation of people on Earth to live in the time of Mars is understood, it will be one of the ways to prepare for future missions to the Red Planet.
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