What NASA learned by sending a 77-year-old astronaut into space

When you have the opportunity to take gravity away from the human body, the results are pretty fasninating.

Scott Parazynski: If you look at the earlier registered passengers onboard Virgin Galactic, for example, they have astronauts in their 80s that are raring to go. I see great opportunities for older astronauts to get onboard Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin and SpaceX in the near future.

Certainly one of the greatest honors of my life was getting a chance to fly in space with my boyhood hero Senator John Glenn. He was up on the pinnacle of heroes as a kid.

He was the very first to orbit the Earth as an American back in 1962, back when rockets didn’t necessarily always behave; there were a lot of failures.

In fact the two launches right before John’s flight, as I recall, blew up, and he was on number three—so there were definitely brave men back in those early days. So it was an incredible thrill to welcome him back to the astronaut ranks and to fly with him on STS-95.

He came back at age 77, the oldest astronaut ever, and we were basically studying his adaptation to space and re-adaptation to earth’s one gravity.

Going up into space is sort of like an accelerated aging process. When even a younger astronaut goes into space we have weakening of our muscles and bones and our heart, because it doesn't have to pump against gravity, we aren’t resisting the force of gravity to move ourselves around. It’s like your body is going on holiday, and so it’s actually a great laboratory for developing countermeasures to the aging process. That was the real reason we wanted to bring John onboard, is to compare and contrast an older astronaut’s experiences with a younger astronaut population.

And he did an amazing job. He was in phenomenal shape, and just a wonderful human being to be around. We learned a lot by having him onboard with us.

One of the things that was really striking is just how well an older person does adapt to space. He was able to perform right lockstep with every other crew-member onboard, contributed in every facet of the mission. He was actually a subject in ten different life sciences experiments—I had to draw gallons and gallons of his blood, which he didn’t care for very much, but he helped us understand those differences. And one of the things that he did struggle with a little bit, coming back to earth’s one gravity. He had issues with getting his balance back, the nervous tubular system was a little slow to recover, not dissimilar to some of our longer duration astronauts when they come back from their missions to the ISS, but certainly nothing that was a showstopper.

It was like a dream come true to have someone that I had revered as a kid become not just a crew-mate but a close friend, as I talk about it all the time. So one of the high points of my career for sure.

Space may be the final frontier, but it's really interesting what it does to our bodies. Scientists are studying the effects of space on the body, says former astronaut and current physician Scott Parazynski. The results are pretty fascinating, especially when you have the opportunity to take gravity out of the equation. Scott Parazynski is the author of The Sky Below: A True Story of Summits, Space, and Speed.

COVID-19 amplified America’s devastating health gap. Can we bridge it?

The COVID-19 pandemic is making health disparities in the United States crystal clear. It is a clarion call for health care systems to double their efforts in vulnerable communities.

Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated America's health disparities, widening the divide between the haves and have nots.
  • Studies show disparities in wealth, race, and online access have disproportionately harmed underserved U.S. communities during the pandemic.
  • To begin curing this social aliment, health systems like Northwell Health are establishing relationships of trust in these communities so that the post-COVID world looks different than the pre-COVID one.
Keep reading Show less

Bruce Lee: How to live successfully in a world with no rules

Shannon Lee shares lessons from her father in her new book, "Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee."

Videos
  • Bruce Lee would have turned 80 years old on November 27, 2020. The legendary actor and martial artist's daughter, Shannon Lee, shares some of his wisdom and his philosophy on self help in a new book titled "Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee."
  • In this video, Shannon shares a story of the fight that led to her father beginning a deeper philosophical journey, and how that informed his unique expression of martial arts called Jeet Kune Do.
  • One lesson passed down from Bruce Lee was his use and placement of physical symbols as a way to help "cement for yourself this new way of being, or this new lesson you've learned." By working on ourselves (with the right tools), we can develop the skills necessary to rise and conquer new challenges.
Keep reading Show less

3 reasons for information exhaustion – and what to do about it

How to deal with "epistemic exhaustion."

Photo by Filip Mishevski on Unsplash
Mind & Brain
An endless flow of information is coming at us constantly: It might be an article a friend shared on Facebook with a sensational headline or wrong information about the spread of the coronavirus.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists find 'smoking gun' proof of a recent supernova near Earth

A supernova exploded near Earth about 2.5 million years ago, possibly causing an extinction event.

Credit: NASA/ESA/G. Bacon, STScI
Surprising Science
  • Researchers from the University of Munich find evidence of a supernova near Earth.
  • A star exploded close to our planet about 2.5 million years ago.
  • The scientists deduced this by finding unusual concentrations of isotopes, created by a supernova.
Keep reading Show less

Top 5 theories on the enigmatic monolith found in Utah desert

A strange object found in Utah desert has prompted worldwide speculation about its origins.

Credit: Utah Department of Public Safety
Culture & Religion
  • A monolithic object found in a remote part of Utah caused worldwide speculation about its origins.
  • The object is very similar to the famous monolith from Stanley Kubrick's "2001: Space Odyssey".
  • The object could be work of an artist or even have extraterrestrial origins.
Keep reading Show less
Quantcast