Space Travel Hits Men Harder Than Women

Women also recovered faster after returning to Earth, researchers say
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 11, 2024 3:51 PM CDT
Women Seem Less Affected by Stresses of Space
The findings could have implications for crew selection, researchers say.   (Getty Images/gorodenkoff)

Women appear to be better suited to spaceflight than men, researchers say. In a study published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers say women were better able to withstand the stress spaceflight puts on the body, including the disruption of gene activity, the Guardian reports. They also recovered faster than men after returning to Earth. "Males appear to be more affected by spaceflight for almost all cell types and metrics," researchers wrote.

  • "The aggregate data thus far indicates that the gene regulatory and immune response to space flight is more sensitive in males," researchers wrote. "More studies will be needed to confirm these trends, but such results can have implications for recovery times and possibly crew selection, for example more females, for high-altitude, lunar, and deep space missions."

  • According to lead researcher Christopher Mason, a professor of physiology at Weill Cornell Medicine, the difference could be linked to the ability to bear children. "Being able to tolerate large changes in physiology and fluid dynamics may be great for being able to manage pregnancy but also manage the stress of spaceflight at a physiological level," he says.
  • The study, along with other research released this week, used data from four volunteers—two women and two men—who took part in SpaceX's Inspiration4 mission in 2021, the Washington Post reports. Researchers also looked at biological and medical data on 64 NASA astronauts.
  • "This is the first time we've had a cell-by-cell examination of a crew when they go to space," Mason says of the four SpaceX passengers, who spent three days in space. Researchers said the study shed light on how weightlessness and space radiation affect people who haven't undergone years of astronaut training, the AP reports.
  • Researchers said countermeasures will be needed if people are to spend extended periods in space, but they didn't see anything that would rule out long space journeys, the Post reports. "There's no showstopper," Mason says. "There's no reason we shouldn't be able to safely get to Mars and back."
  • Another study, however, exposed mice to simulated galactic cosmic rays and found that a journey to Mars could cause permanent kidney damage, the Guardian reports.
(More astronauts stories.)

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