With the development of commercial space flight teams such as Blue Origin, Space-X, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada Corp., comes an increased possibility of planning your first party in space! The dream of spending an afternoon in outer-space is finally here… are you ready for the thrill of a lifetime? If you answered yes, there is definitely more than meets the eye.
NASA astronauts train years for their mission, preparing for the reality of space flight. Sustaining high G-forces, changes in pressure, and operating for prolonged periods in a low pressure, low gravity, heavy radiation environment are just some of the physiological consequences the astronaut’s bodies are subject to. With the growing availability of economically efficient and orbital/suborbital launch system capabilities, frequent manned missions into space are upon us. This begs the question: how can somebody without the physical means or astronaut caliber training withstand the physical demands of traveling to space? Companies seeking to market their product (a trip to space) ought to utilize human-centered design to construct their crew capsules and invest in the development of an effective, pre-flight physical training program. If not, it is highly likely that those with the economic means to afford this luxury, will not have the body type to make the most of it. Simply put, it is not realistic for somebody who is out of shape to cold-turkey 15 instantaneous Gs!
The basis of human-factors is system-human integration, and while many of the current prototypes detail automated ventures into outer space, the principles of safety, high availability, high reliability, low cost, simplicity, reusability, mitigating extremes, and user-centered perspective are vital in the development of a launch system for tourists. The capsules will be designed for anybody with the health and economic means to fly (not solely astronaut qualified pilots). Beginning with launch, users will withstand a maximum of +6Gxs, cope with motion sickness, spatial disorientation, and nerves. During their time in space, users will experience zero-Gs, and their bodies will suffer drastic changes in ocular pressure, resulting in uneasiness. In the reentry stage, users will experience relatively low sustained G-forces due to gravity, high instantaneous G-forces with the employment of a speed-brake, (parachute deployment) and the associated physiological episodes (motion sickness/panic/dizziness/hypoxia, etc.)
Ensuring user health and comfort is the gateway to improving the space tourist experience. With regards to anthropometric measures, providing the optimum physical environment for the user involves choosing materials and equipment to meet a variety of body types. Selecting properly fit space suits, adjustable seats, (adjust dependent on the direction of induced G-forces +/- X/Y/Z) harness and seat measurements to fit extremes, enhanced user-visibility/observability, adaptive automation (interface controls in case of emergency/communication controls within reach) and a pressurized capsule with constant air conditioning, lighting, and temperature. Constructing a space capsule that considers these requirements is sure to reduce the frequency of users suffering from the above symptoms. In addition to optimizing the environmental conditions, physically conditioning users for the high demands of space flight is another way of improving safety, and enhancing the space tourist experience.
In order to determine whether or not someone is “fit to fly,” it is necessary to define a standard of health, involving several physiological measures, to include but not limited to: general health, heart rate, heart rate variability, blood pressure, respiration rate, ventilation, oxygen consumption and brain activity. While current proposals do not plan to have passengers interacting with the automated flight control systems, it is still necessary to account for brain activity in the case of emergency. For passengers whose vitals do not meet the requirements, the following dietary adjustments and specific training exercises can be performed as needed, to increase their chances of space flight eligibility.
The first, and simplest way to improve general health is to adjust what the body is processing. Having candidates adopt a plant-based diet, that is heavy in fats, moderate in protein intake and low in carb, and combining it with time-restricted eating has shown to have significant cardioprotective benefits. Regarding aerobic endurance and heart rate improvement, rowing and swimming variations will prove beneficial. Rowing increases heart rate and will strengthen and engage the legs and core, muscle groups essential for handling +Gz. Being in a pool provides the candidate with the opportunity to simulate zero-G sensations, while improving aerobic capacity/performance. To improve respiration rate, ventilation, oxygen consumption, and discomfort in uncomfortable/claustrophobic conditions, candidates should utilize training masks to restrict breathing. By training with a reduced amount of air, the total amount of oxygen available is also lowered. In an oxygen-deprived state, the candidate will have no option but to be more mindful of his respiratory rate and exert more energy expelling breath. The ability to control his or her breathing in a state of hypoxia improves respiration efficiency. Total effectiveness of this technique can be measured by comparing pre/post VO2 Max (maximal oxygen consumption) results. Additionally, training with a mask will help the first time space tourists handle anxiety and claustrophobia. Record the candidates’ vitals over a three-month period, until his/her health achieves the standard.
Suiting up for a trip to space is far more complex than buckling into a Tesla. The physical demands, high-risk, and mental aspect of leaving our atmosphere present multiple issues to the user that have yet to be accounted for. Companies striving to put people in space, for any reason, need to understand the launch system-human integration, and be aware of the commitment and time needed for this to be feasible. With a little creativity, simple concepts such as training and user-centered design can pay dividends in improving the space tourist experience before, during and after the flight.
Commit. Grind. Fly!
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Schenkelberg, Fred, and Steven Melander. “General Human Factors Design Principles.” Accendo Reliability, 22 June 2017, accendoreliability.com/general-human-factors- design-principles/.
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