After spaceflight record, NASA looks to protect astronauts on even longer trips

After spaceflight record, NASA looks to protect astronauts on even longer trips

NASA astronaut Frank Rubio floats by the International Space Station’s “window to the world.” Yesterday, he returned from the longest single spaceflight by a U.S. astronaut on record - over one year. Exploring deep space will require even longer missions.

NASA

At T-minus six seconds, the main engines of the Atlantis Space Shuttle ignited, rattling its capsule “like a skyscraper in an earthquake,” according to astronaut Tom Jones, describing the 1988 launch. As the rocket lifted off and accelerated to three times the force of Earth's gravity, “It felt as if two of my friends were standing on my chest and wouldn’t get off.” But when Atlantis reached orbit, the main engines cut off, and the astronauts were suddenly weightless.

Since 1961, NASA has sent hundreds of astronauts into space while working to making their voyages safer and smoother. Yet, challenges remain. Weightlessness may look amusing when watched from Earth, but it has myriad effects on cognition, movement and other functions. When missions to space stretch to six months or longer, microgravity can impact astronauts’ health and performance, making it more difficult to operate their spacecraft.

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Gail Dutton
Gail Dutton has covered the biopharmaceutical industry as a journalist for the past three decades. She focuses on the intersection of business and science, and has written extensively for GEN – Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, Life Science Leader, The Scientist and BioSpace. Her articles also have appeared in Popular Science, Forbes, Entrepreneur and other publications.
When doctors couldn’t stop her daughter’s seizures, this mom earned a PhD and found a treatment herself.

Savannah Salazar (left) and her mother, Tracy Dixon-Salazaar, who earned a PhD in neurobiology in the quest for a treatment of her daughter's seizure disorder.

LGS Foundation

Twenty-eight years ago, Tracy Dixon-Salazaar woke to the sound of her daughter, two-year-old Savannah, in the midst of a medical emergency.

“I entered [Savannah’s room] to see her tiny little body jerking about violently in her bed,” Tracy said in an interview. “I thought she was choking.” When she and her husband frantically called 911, the paramedic told them it was likely that Savannah had had a seizure—a term neither Tracy nor her husband had ever heard before.

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Sarah Watts

Sarah Watts is a health and science writer based in Chicago.

A robot cafe in Tokyo is making work possible for people with disabilities.

A robot server, controlled remotely by a disabled worker, delivers drinks to patrons at the DAWN cafe in Tokyo.

Photo courtesy of dawn2021.orylab.com.

A sleek, four-foot tall white robot glides across a cafe storefront in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi district, holding a two-tiered serving tray full of tea sandwiches and pastries. The cafe’s patrons smile and say thanks as they take the tray—but it’s not the robot they’re thanking. Instead, the patrons are talking to the person controlling the robot—a restaurant employee who operates the avatar from the comfort of their home.

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Sarah Watts

Sarah Watts is a health and science writer based in Chicago.