The physiology and psychology of living in space

Paul Raven @ 01-04-2011

Via BigThink, Robert Lamb of Discovery News has compiled an overview of the physical and mental adjustments a human being makes to living in the microgravity of an orbital space station:

Stage Three: Sometime between week six and week 12, you can expect things to get a little moody aboard the old space station. Russian observations found that a number of the symptoms were linked to boredom and isolation. You become hypertensive, irritable and less motivated. Expect to fly off the handle whenever a crew member drifts into your personal space or borrows your iPod without asking. You can also expect increased sensitivity to loud noises, changes in musical preferences, exhaustion, sleep disturbances and loss of appetite. It should come as no surprise that this sometimes results in an “accusation of negative personality traits.”

Mundane/hard SF writers, take note – plenty of scientifically verifiable story triggers in there. Especially in Stage Four, which is all about “prevailing feelings of euphoria” and “new insights into the meaning of life and the unity of mankind”… so, kinda like watching 2001 with a headful of Owsley’s Old Original, then. (I’m kidding, of course. Well, mostly.)

Of course, the above research can, perforce, only describe the effects of a relatively short tenure at the top of the gravity well; for anything longer than a five-moth stretch, you’re probably gonna want to go cyborg