Space is a dangerous place for humans, and without the right protection, it would be impossible to survive. There is no air to breathe, temperatures are freezing, and radiation from the Sun and other cosmic sources can cause severe sunburns. Despite the physical discomfort, living in space can have a profound effect on people. The space shuttle disasters of 1986 and 2003 not only caused the loss of life and the destruction of two shuttles, but they also changed the course of the space program.
NASA is now conducting experiments to determine how long humans can stay in space without experiencing any negative effects. This research includes sequencing DNA in space and studying high-energy particles from distant cosmic phenomena. Although NASA has made great strides in exploring space, there are still many limitations to what humans can do. Over the years, 241 people from around the world have lived on the International Space Station (ISS) for periods of up to a year.
In addition to keeping their home in order, ISS crew members have established a laboratory to test the limits of human research, space exploration, and the human spirit. To keep the station running and its inhabitants alive, crew members and global support teams must work together like a mini United Nations. The first crew arrived two days after the station was completed, and it has been continuously occupied by humans ever since - a streak of 20 years living and working in low Earth orbit. Depending on where you are in space, it takes between 12 and 26 hours to complete one orbit around Earth - but if you're near a star, you'll be burned to a crisp! The first results of these experiments show a wide range of genetic changes in response to spaceflight, including some signs of telomere shortening which is associated with aging and heart disease. Even basic activities such as going to the bathroom become complex tasks in space.
Astronauts and cosmonauts must train for most of their lives to learn technical information and perfect their physical abilities for living in space. As NASA encourages commercial use of the station and possibly begins to attract tourists, more people from different backgrounds will be able to experience life in space.