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Study: Weightlessness might produce long term anemia

The uncertainty of science: A study of fourteen astronauts who spent six months on ISS has found that weightlessness appears to increase the loss of red blood cells, and that the continuing loss extends well past their return to Earth.

Before this study, space anemia was thought to be a quick adaptation to fluids shifting into the astronaut’s upper body when they first arrived in space. Astronauts lose 10 percent of the liquid in their blood vessels this way. It was thought astronauts rapidly destroyed 10 percent of their red blood cells to restore the balance, and that red blood cell control was back to normal after 10 days in space.

Instead, Dr. Trudel’s team found that the red blood cell destruction was a primary effect of being in space, not just caused by fluid shifts. They demonstrated this by directly measuring red blood cell destruction in 14 astronauts during their six-month space missions.

On Earth, our bodies create and destroy 2 million red blood cells every second. The researchers found that astronauts were destroying 54 percent more red blood cells during the six months they were in space, or 3 million every second. These results were the same for both female and male astronauts.

The study also found that for as much as a year afterward the astronauts continued to lose red blood cells at a rate 30% greater than normal.

The researchers immediately suggested further invasive monitoring of anyone who wants to go to space. From their paper:

Space tourism will considerably expand the number of space travelers. Medical screening of future astronauts and space tourists might benefit from a preflight profiling of globin gene and modifiers. Postlanding monitoring should cover conditions affected by anemia and hemolysis. Monitoring individual astronaut’s levels of hemolysis during mission may be indicated to reduce health risks.

Without question, this data strongly suggests that it would be wise for anyone who wants to go into space for long periods have themselves checked for anemia, and have it treated prior to going, or if they still have it at launch time to decide not to go. However, the choice should belong to the individual, not bureaucrats imposing regulations or legislators passing laws.

Unfortunately, our modern leftist society now assumes such decisions no longer belong to the individual, but must be made by their betters in Washington. Provisions in the 2004 Space Amendments act allows the FAA to impose such invasive medical testing on future space tourists. Its bureaucrats have not yet done so, but the recent history with government mandates over the COVID shots suggests strongly that they will not hesitate to do so when they think they can get away with it.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • BtB’s Original Mark

    This post on the risks associated with weightlessness in space reminded me of a podcast that Bob previously recommended.
    In November I listened to the six-part podcast series from History Unplugged called AGE OF DISCOVERY 2.0: Mr. Z. was featured on Episode four. Episode five featured science writer Rand Simberg who discussed the need for accepting risk in the name of discovery. Simberg is the author of Safe Is Not An Option: Overcoming The Futile Obsession With Getting Everyone Back Alive That Is Killing Our Expansion Into Space.
    I recommend the whole podcast series and you can use the BtB search bar and search on History Unplugged to find links to it.

  • Jeff Wright

    ..even Musk said the reason Starship iterates so fast is because it is cargo only for now. Dragon took time too. Man rated craft demand some safety…We need ring stations where zero-g is a walk-not a launch-away.

  • ” . . .our modern leftist society now assumes such decisions no longer belong to the individual, but must be made by their betters . . .”

    Yes, our (soft science) betters, who have spent a decade in academia learning, and writing, on all the ways the plebeians are inferior, then have to find a way to make a living. Now, Government and Academia are about the only viable options for the Anointed. Used to be the Church, and still is, but ‘ by any other name’ might smell as foul.

    The social sciences are valuable, but as with religion, a useful servant, and terrible master. Only, we suffer from a plague of the over-educated.

  • Questioner

    Original Mark:

    What specific flight destination in space that can be flown to is worth dying for?

  • BtB’s Original Mark

    Questioner- Please read the novel “The Martian”, or you can watch the movie which is also well made. It will give you an important perspective on Americans. Mars is the frontier and the frontier is there to be explored. “The Martian” is a story of scientific resourcefulness and individual resilience.
    Because Mars is the frontier and is a highly probable destination for future human civilization, this is a destination that is worth dying for.

  • john hare

    “”What specific flight destination in space that can be flown to is worth dying for?””

    More accurately, “which destinations and missions are worth risking your life for?” Caving, diving, skydiving, and walking across the street all carry some element of risk. Eliminating all risk being impossible, which are you willing to accept. Rand is referring to the absurd insistence of zero risk that is both impossible, and paralyzing to space development.

    Not Kamikaze missions with the certainty of death. Missions to targets that are variously defended. Think of microgravity, radiation, and the unknown in terms of the triple A, SAMs, and Migs in terms of risk. Some targets need to be hit knowing some ain’t coming back. Some can be skipped even at much lessor risk.

    Would you fly a mission to divert an asteroid that would destroy civilization at a 1% chance of dying? Or 50%? How about a mission with some risk to correct some future fault in the JW telescope? We all accept some level of risk driving or working so it is a personal choice of how much is acceptable.

  • Questioner

    BtB’s Original Mark:

    With all due respect. I don’t think the urge to explore and colonize open spaces is anything specifically American. Not even in relation to space. See also cultural, intellectual and technical prehistory of space travel, which took place largely in Europe. I would also caution against overusing analogies with historical events such as the conquest of North America by European settlers (frontier topic).

    As I discussed in detail here several weeks ago, I doubt that Mars is destination for future human civilization at all. That is certainly not the case. It is not possible to reshape Mars to provide livable conditions for the settlement of millions of people. On the other hand, the scientific exploration of Mars by local people is certainly something of great value and will take place. Those affected must decide for themselves whether it is worth risking their life for it.

  • Questioner

    john hare:

    Thank you for your considerations. If risks are taken (on space missions) for reasons of extreme sport, entertainment or adventure, this should not be covered by payments from the general public and should be borne solely by these private individuals.

    When it comes to gaining particularly important scientific knowledge in space or averting dangers that threaten from space, there is certainly a legitimate interest in the general public funding it. Detection of life on Mars may be an example. However, the technical development is such that the extremely expensive use of men in space is becoming less and less necessary, perhaps at some point it can be completely eliminated. That had e.g. Wernher von Braun underestimated in the 1950s.

  • BtB’s Original Mark

    Dr. Robert Zubrin is a uniquely American figure and IMO Europe at this moment in time would not produce such a person.
    Dr. Zubrin has been advocating for the exploration of Mars for over four decades and established the Mars Society in 1998 after becoming disappointed with the government’s disinterest in the initiative.
    In an interview a few years ago, Zubrin stated that Mars is “going to be a lab where new ideas are tried out. A lot won’t work, but some will, and that’s what we need: a place where the rules haven’t been written yet, so people can give new ideas a try. Martian society will be an engine for invention.”
    So to sum up – IMO the following combination is uniquely American in this moment of World history – a passion for the future, engineering and scientific talent, and building future focused
    institutions outside the scope of established government structures.
    It would be fascinating to read an article from BtB’s Mr. Z. tackling this topic.

    Enjoy the “vibe” of this clip from “The Martian”:

  • Questioner

    BtB’s Original Mark:

    Perhaps I should tell you that I was for decades a former, fanatical space cadet myself. Since 1975 I have been involved with space travel, with few phases of interruptions (the true belief was lost or weaker during these phases), very intensively and I am even an aerospace engineer. So I know my stuff. Of course, I have known the name Zubrin for decades. In terms of his personality and the way he presents himself, I consider him more of a political activist than a serious man. He is a true believer. In my opinion, he sustains and encourages illusions about the possibility of building a civilization on Mars.

  • BtB’s Original Mark

    Bob Zimmerman – hope you are having a relaxing weekend, but if you are reading comments, I could use some assistance in defense of Dr. Zubrin. I’m assuming you have some familiarity with him since he endorsed your last book.

  • Gary H

    Government must make sure that those that are are going to space have been advised as to the risk. That said, accepting that risk should be a personal decision.

  • pawn

    “I was for decades a former, fanatical space cadet myself. ”

    So what happened?

    I must admit I was in a similar frame of mind until I realized from being up close and personal that NASA was completely corrupt. I lost my enthusiasm, thinking America, yes the USA, had degenerated to a point where we could no longer do big things as we had lost the collective will and leadership to do so.

    But then Elon Musk came along and leap frogged the technocracy. Would you put Musk in the same boat as Zubrin? Take Zubrin and add a couple billion dollars, is it the same snake oil you are claiming he is selling?

  • pawn

    While I am here and in the interest of debate on the subject at hand, I would like to add that NASAs complete shuttering of life sciences and tethering studies is one of the things that reinforced their blindness to anything beyond LEO as far as manned spaceflight was concerned. Bush tried to light some kind of fire there but the technocracy and Congress had the upper hand. Plus the Cold War was over.

    The issues of keeping humans alive and vital in deep space must be addressed otherwise we are going to be delivering a box of human jelly donuts to wherever we go.

  • Edward

    You asked: “What specific flight destination in space that can be flown to is worth dying for?

    All of them. People died to get to the Americas. People died to settle the Americas. People died to learn to fly across the Atlantic — Charles Lindberg was called “Lucky Lindy” for a reason. People die building dams, constructing buildings, and developing space exploration. People die driving to the grocery store. We continue these activities because the end result is worth the risks and the losses.

    I doubt that Mars is destination for future human civilization at all.

    Fortunately, among the mandates that government is imposing upon us, colonizing Mars is not one of them. You do not have to worry that you will be drafted for this adventure, but it is also unfair to forbid others the opportunity to try. For colonization, it is the same as you said of mere exploration: “Those affected must decide for themselves whether it is worth risking their life for it.

  • Questioner


    Your question is good and not easy to answer in a few words. First of all, I am talking here exclusively about manned space travel. I continue to be a big supporter of unmanned space exploration using robotic probes.

    So: At the time, I was certainly disappointed by the actual developments in manned spaceflight in the 1980s and 1990s. So this eternal not getting beyond low earth orbit, the lack of a serious plan for a manned flight to Mars, etc.. Even before the Challenger catastrophe, I thought the space shuttle was a technical misconception. But those were just intermediate stations in my own development. It was important that I managed to move away from the details and towards the big picture. I became increasingly interested in the real reasons manned spaceflight might make sense after the discoveries of Mariner 2 and 4 eliminated real destinations worth the effort and risk. Of course I’m talking about the “failure” of Mars and Venus as destinations for meaningful manned space travel.

    Crucial to my process of evolving away from being a space cadet was the realization that this was an outspoken cult run by true believers. I didn’t want to submit to this cult any further, for it is the common trait of true believers that one must not question the very foundations of their cult. Dr. Jeff Bell has articulated this much better than I can. Please listen to some of the many interviews at the Space Show.

    The greatest prophet of true faith at the moment is Elon Musk, who, with great entrepreneurial talent, is very successful in advancing certain technical developments, that is beyond doubt. Nevertheless, his actual goal, the colonization of Mars, is on very weak ground. Curiously, as far as I know, he does very little outside of Starship development to develop the bases for his venture.

    The imaginary colonization of Mars is a task of a magnitude that would trump the entire efforts on all sides of the Second World War to such an extent that they seem negligible compared to the Mars project. In my view, if Elon Musk was really serious about it, he would have to commit funds of the order of magnitude to the project each year to create the foundations mentioned above, which represent a significant fraction of the total NASA budget. That’s not the case.

  • Questioner


    You are serving a misunderstanding that I need to correct. It was not Americans who settled and conquered the North American continent, but courageous and very active Europeans! Above all: English, Germans and Irish. This urge to conquer the open space seems to be more a characteristic of the Europeans.

  • BtB’s Original Mark

    Questioner: you stated: “This urge to conquer the open space seems to be more a characteristic of the Europeans.”
    That’s an interesting perspective. By the way my heritage is primarily Polish (from areas most likely previously within Germany), Irish, & German (from East Prussia, Bavaria, & Alsace-Lorraine). So I suppose my progeny may inherently have those characteristics.
    And as an aside, if hypothetically I was asked to make a one-time ‘time travel’ decision where I had to go back in time & change one event (but knowing I would be stuck there), I would gladly go live in Berlin in 1910. And the one event I would change would be preventing the assassination that contributed to WWI. German civilization most likely would have continued to astound the world in Science & Culture, and I’m sure I would have enjoyed living in Berlin.
    I recommend to all the book “Archduke Franz Ferdinand Lives!” It is alternative history fiction which envisages a world in which the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo in 1914 never happened. The author of that book is Richard Ned Lebow.
    Here is what Josef Joffe (Publisher-Editor of Die Zeit) remarked about the book: “Ned Lebow has produced the most sophisticated “what-if” history in many years. Read this fascinating book to jog your mind and to understand the worst and best century in world history – why we are where we are now.”

  • pawn

    Q- So you are disgruntled with NASAs lack of vision in manned space and yet oppose an alternative vision because it’s costs too much?

    So essentially you see things as a zero-sum game. It’s been said that zero-sum thinking is essentially anti-technological.

    Your last paragraph doesn’t make any sense to me.

  • pzatchok

    If I had the cash like Musk yes I would become a colonist of Mars. As long as I had the ability to come back for supplies.

    A planet all to myself and my family.
    Until others want to come. Then they would more them likely want to come in through my already established colony and infrastructure.

  • Questioner


    Elon has already taken the first step towards implementing your suggestions: He has declared himself Emperor of Mars (not really)!

  • Mike Borgelt

    I don’t know if it has been mentioned here before but Wernher von Braun wrote an SF book in the 1950’s about a manned expedition to Mars. They find a civilization dying from loss of the Martian atmosphere. The leader of the Martians is known as “The Elon”.

  • Questioner

    Mike Borgelt:

    Although some details was already known about Mars (cold and dry) by this time in 1957, there was still hope that conditions on Mars would be a little more livable than feared. That was the background for this fantastic Disney episode. Unfortunately, a few years (1965) later, Mariner 4 needed the not-so-joyful truth.

  • Questioner

    Mike Borgelt:

    Dr. Wernher von Braun and Dr. Ernst Stuhlinger in 1957: Manned mission to Mars using electric rocket propulsion! From about minute 40.

  • Robin Juhl

    Bitt-in-ski government officials telling you you’re not allowed on a rocket? Heinlein addressed that in the short story Requiem, in which Elon Musk D. D. Harriman overcomes just such obstacles. Highly recommended!

  • Edward

    You wrote: “You are serving a misunderstanding that I need to correct.

    I reread my comment, twice, and I don’t know what I said to give you the impression that Americans or even that Europeans conquered the North American continent. I said “people” and included the South American continent. Even as the Europeans were settling the Americas, they found that other people had already settled these two continents.

    Since the topic was destinations worth dying for, although specifically space destinations, I included a more mundane place worth dying for: the grocery store. I suspect that you have read into my comment only what you wanted to read. It’s like those song lyrics: “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”

    The point remains that when it comes to expanding man’s knowledge of the universe, increasing man’s reach in his world, and in the everyday activities such as gathering food and building houses and workplaces, we are willing to risk our lives.

    As we begin to realize how much energy it takes to get off a planet’s surface, we are likely to become a less of a planetary species and more of a space-based species, even if that requires rotating colonies in order to avoid the health problems of weightlessness.

  • Questioner


    because you mentioned his name:

    I like the man Charles Lindbergh. His transatlantic flight was a stunt of immense personal courage. It was carried out with a small airplane that was extremely adapted to the task of getting a single man across the ocean und that with difficulty. However, the flight has in no way leveled the technical and organizational prerequisites for starting regular passenger air traffic across the Atlantic. That only happened decades later, when the prerequisites were in place.

  • Max

    Speaking of risking your life, getting vaccinated and then playing tennis can kill you.

    “Breathing difficulties’ plague the vaccinated”

  • wayne

    Great Disney link.
    (Tangentially– it’s sad to see Disney go all marxist on everyone, on the upside however, it will be relatively easy, when the time comes, to render them all off-shore to a friendly 3rd world country for enhanced interrogation.)

    Mike Borgelt–
    I was hoping that von Braun story was posted at the Archive, but apparently not. (Searching is always problematic with them, could be user-error.)
    I did, however, find this:

    Project: Humans to Mars
    NASA 2011
    [embedded player, or download]

    “Dr. Jesco von Puttkamer, Space Operations Mission Directorate, reviews 60 years of manned Mars mission analyses conducted at NASA and in Russia, starting from the historical first study, “The Mars Project,” by Dr. Wernher von Braun and colleagues in 1948.”

  • Lee S

    Sorry I’m late to the discussion… I managed to slip over on the melting ice Saturday, and am now nursing a busted rib! ( The joy never ends! )
    I agree whole heartedly with the whole principal of risking your life if you choose to do so for whatever reason, and space exploration seems a bloody good reason to me. Unless I’m very much mistaken, the Apollo 11 guys gave themselves a 50/50 chance to make it home. And I guess this is the difference we are discussing here. NASA lost those brass balls decades ago.
    Many years ago I did a solo parachute jump, ( in the UK), and I had to sign a form which stated in no uncertain terms ” I fully understand that parachuting is an inherently dangerous activity, which could result in serious injury or death”…. Then the company’s disclaimer. I signed it, and had possibly the biggest adrenaline rush of my life.
    But I’m a little confused about the laws over there, I have seen videos of wing suiters that never made it to the end of their flight, and then there is that crazy dude with a steam rocket that made a very hard landing. I always have presumed if your willing to take your life in your own hands… That’s down to you?
    ( Caving, motor racing, diving, climbing… All very inherently dangerous activities, is there a difference between these “sports” and climbing into a rocket, if it’s a purely private venture?)
    And for the record, yes, at this point in my life, I would volunteer for a trip to mars, if I thought it had a reasonable chance of success, Months of boredom punctuated with minutes of terror, but MARS!
    As the great (British) climber said, when asked why he wanted to climb Everest….
    “Because it’s there”

  • Doubting Thomas

    Mike B, Wayne, Questioner – Almost 10 years ago I downloaded a scanned PDF copy of Von Braun’s Mars novel from Project Gutenberg, I just checked, and it is not there anymore. It is a very good color scan with only 2 small sections of two pages which are illegible. I see where Amazon is willing to sell it to you for $30.

    It is a very long and dry story telling attempt. Here is the quote you all talked about:

    “The Martian government was directed by ten men, the leader of whom was elected by universal suffrage for five years and entitled “Elon.” Two houses of Parliament enacted the laws to be administered by the Elon and his cabinet. The Upper House was called the Council of the Elders and was limited to a membership of 60 persons, each being appointed for life by the Elon as vacancies occurred by death. ”

    I will keep looking for it online and post a link here, if Robert is ok with that, if I find it.

  • Doubting Thomas: I am totally cool with you providing a link to Von Braun’s Mars novel.

    In his 1950s Mars Project book, Von Braun made a prediction that I quoted in Leaving Earth because it has turned out to be so so very right:

    Will man ever go to Mars? I am sure he will — but it will be a century or more before he is ready.

    Von Braun of course provided detailed reasons why, mostly having to do with the time required to solve the medical and engineering problems of building an interplanetary manned spaceship.

    Right now Von Braun’s time table looks pretty good. At worse he might be one or two decades off, if Elon Musk does what he is trying to do.

  • wayne

    We have a huge problem with ‘trial-lawyers’* here in the USA, and of course, “product safety lawsuits.”
    (* not to be confused with defense-attorneys, trial-lawyers sue everyone, for anything. Doesn’t matter how many ‘waivers’ you might have signed. )

    Doubting Thomas-
    Good deal!
    I only did a cursory search at the Archive, and I’ve always found searching there to be a hassle.
    What is the actual complete Title of the book?

  • BtB’s Original Mark

    So I see we have an interesting discussion on Von Braun. That’s cool, and interesting to see Von Braun’s quote from Bob’s book Leaving Earth.

    But why no substantive defense of Dr. Robert Zubrin, who was maligned above, and who has been advocating for the exploration of Mars for over four decades

    Very puzzling.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Wayne – Title of Book:

    A Technical Tale
    Dr. Wernher von Braun

    English Translation by

    Henry J. White, Lt Cdr, USN

    ISBN 10 – 0 – 97 – 38203-3-0

    Found other download links but I have always relied on Guttenberg for safe and trusted download site – so reluctant to post an untested site here.

  • Questioner


    I met Dr. Puttkamer personally many years ago at an aviation show.

    Many years before this event, I had sent him a small proposal for the design of a launch vehicle as a I was pupil. At this time he was still active in NASA. He wrote me a very friendly letter as response.

  • Questioner


    The Disney Mars film is actually sensational and an interesting contemporary document, especially in relation to the hopes associated with Mars.

    From this it appears that in 1957 public (the scientists, the interested public) was willing to accept that Mars is most likely not the living planet that had been hoped for years ago. But in 1957 one still hoped for “lower” forms of life. And most importantly, even in 1957 it was still believed that there was an atmosphere of sufficient pressure and density. But it was confirmed already in 1957 that the Mars atmosphere is very cold and devoid of oxygen, and only consisting of nitrogen (!) and carbon dioxide.

    The fact that the real Martian atmosphere, which in principle corresponds to a good technical vacuum on Earth, could not fulfill these hopes was the actual massive setback for Wernher von Braun’s space dreams in 1965

  • Edward

    One man’s stunt, as seen in retrospect, was a whole world’s proof of concept, as seen from the perspective that it has to be done before “regular passenger air traffic across the Atlantic” can begin. Which really means that you are wrong.

    It was the beginning of the very first technical and organizational prerequisite for starting regular non-stop passenger air traffic across the Atlantic. Non-stop passenger air traffic cannot start until the concept of flying non-stop across the Atlantic has been proved.

    It was the entire purpose of the Orteig Prize, just as starting commercial manned spaceflight in reusable rockets was the purpose of theX-Prize. In the early 1920s, the technology was not yet up to the task, and it was a second issue of the Orteig Prize that finally found people who could develop the technology so that there could be a winner and so that — in time — there could be the airplane range needed for non-stop service.

    Even in the past two decades, trans-Atlantic flights are not risk-free, but but we have worked hard to reduce the risks, and people continue to risk their lives just to go to another continent. We shouldn’t be surprised that some people are willing to risk their lives in order to see whether we can colonize another planet. It is something worth dying for. That’s the deal. (7 minutes, Bill Whittle, The Deal)
    “You see, either you live for something, something worth dying for, or you just rot on the installment plan. That’s the deal.”

  • Questioner

    A conversation between two men who have contributed much to the Mars enthusiasm for manned missions.

    “A historic conversation between German rocket scientists Wernher Von Braun and Willy Ley. Highlights include the development of the German rocket programs during WWII, and the space program in the 1950’s. Recorded June 9th and 23rd, 1959, in New York City and Redstone Arsenal, Huntstville, Alabama.”

  • wayne

    Very cool. (meeting Dr. Puttkamer)

    Doubting Thomas-
    Thank you for the complete Title, I’ll do some looking tonight.

    still reading your stuff! (I just don’t have anything to add….)

    A nice little Mark Felton video….

    “The America Rocket”
    Mark Felton Productions
    (December 2019)

    “….the story behind the America Rocket, created by V-2 designer Wernher von Braun to strike New York City from space!”

  • Questioner


    In 1984, as part of a small group of young men, I was fortunate to meet one of the three fathers who laid the theoretical foundations of space travel, namely Hermann Oberth. He was then in the proud age of 90 years. (Note: the other two fathers are known to be: K. E. Ziolkowski and R. Goddard). Unfortunately, I never got to know Wernher von Braun personally. He died way too soon for me.

  • wayne

    “Red Sector A”
    [ unofficial music video ]

  • wayne

    Geddy Lee Tells His Family’s Holocaust Story
    Q104.3 FM (2019)

  • Questioner


    What is the relationship between your last two links to Wernher von Braun and Hermann Oberth?

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