Chinese astronauts in Tiangong I space lab. (File photo)
China will take various measures to ensure the health of astronauts aboard its space station, which will be completed by 2022, said Li Yinghui, deputy chief designer of China Manned Space Engineering Project.
According to a recent report by The Telegraph, scientists from Russia and Canada found alarming changes to the immune system of 18 Russian cosmonauts who lived on the International Space Station for six months, suggesting that they would struggle to shake off even a minor virus like the common cold.
“The results showed that in weightlessness, the immune system acts like it does when the body is infected because the human body doesn’t know what to do and tries to turn on all possible defense systems,” said Professor Evgeny Nikolaev, of Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology.
Microgravity and radiation in space, as well as the long-term isolation and high spiritual pressure, all affect astronauts’ immune systems, Li explained.
In addition, microorganisms are more fertile in weightlessness, secreting more toxins. This increases the chance of diseases for astronauts in space.
According to Li, understanding of the human immune system in space is still based on ground immunology. With the rapid development of manned space engineering, China has gained more comprehensive knowledge of how space impacts astronauts’ immunity, Li said, adding that breakthroughs have been made in multiple areas.
Radiography is a seldom applied technology in short and medium-short term flights. However, it will be widely applied to the space station to observe astronauts’ cardiovascular, digestive, and skeletal systems, Li said. As a result, real-time adjustment can be made to ensure their health.
In addition, the core technology employed for immunological studies, flow cytometry, will be added to the space station.
More measures will be taken on China’s space station, Li added. “We will offer wearable devices, machines, and instruments to ensure the astronauts’ health through all their practices,” she said.