Space anemia, a challenge to overcome for future astronauts to Mars

A new study links anemia to space travel, which will make it harder for astronauts to experience.


Anemia  is a problem on Earth, but it is also a problem in space A new study indicates that this condition, previously considered a temporary annoyance, is an illness to be considered by astronauts  due to weightlessness.

Anemia was considered a “15-day illness” by NASA, because it was thought to be temporary. However, the new research reveals that it is a “primary effect” of space travel.

The challenge to overcome

“While you’re in space, you’re destroying more blood cells than you’re making,” said Guy Trudel of the University of Ottawa, who led the study of 14 astronauts by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

Normally, the body destroys and replaces two million red blood cells every second. However, the new study found that astronauts ‘ bodies destroyed three million red blood cells every second during six-month missions. “We thought we knew about space anemia , and we didn’t,” Trudel said.

A full year after returning to Earth from the International Space Station, the astronauts ‘ red blood cell levels had not returned to pre-flight levels, according to the study published in Nature . “If you’re on your way to Mars and you can’t keep up” with red blood cell production, the astronaut “could be in serious trouble,” Trudel said. That wouldn’t necessarily cause problems in a zero-gravity environment, but it could become a problem once the astronauts reach Mars or when they return to Earth.

The researchers said anemia could even be a problem for space tourism , if potential travelers are at risk for the condition. The study also noted that “current exercise and nutritional countermeasures of modern space travel did not prevent post-flight hemolysis and anemia ” with tested astronauts.

The study, first announced in 2016, was based on data collected during Expeditions 10 and 11 aboard the International Space Station in 2004 and 2005. Anemia is defined as a deficiency of red blood cells or hemoglobin in the blood, a condition that can result in paleness and tiredness and affect endurance and strength.

The study didn’t say how those problems might be addressed directly, but suggested that doctors focus on anemia -related problems when evaluating candidates.