Alta Live: Civilian Space Travel Gets Real

Science journalist David Ewing Duncan explores the impact of galactic travel on the human body.

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As part of Alta’s Summer 2022 special section, The New Space Age, David Ewing Duncan wrote about the impact of space travel on human bodies, especially as the quest for Mars heats up. “We haven’t evolved to be in space. There are many reasons why our bodies don’t really work in that environment,” Duncan said. “I grew up on Star Trek and all these great sci-fi shows, and I was pretty sure we’d be in space by now, but it wasn’t really how it was depicted on those shows. It’s quite a hostile environment for humans.” Among the most pressing threats, Duncan said, are radiation, isolation and confinement, and the distance from Earth.

So why send humans to space, then? Galactic travel can help decode human physiology by putting people in extreme situations, Duncan said, but there’s also an innate-curiosity aspect. “Part of this is just, it’s out there,” Duncan explained to Alta Live. “This is what drove explorers throughout human history. What can we find out there?” And admittedly, space travel is awe-inspiring. Take the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing, for example. “Everybody was thrilled by this, every single person, every eye who could find a television was watching that,” Duncan said. “1969 had a lot of turmoil at that time, too, but for a brief and shining moment, we were united by this extraordinary accomplishment and the ingenuity of our species to be able to do something like that. I think we need inspiration right now, and I guess if I could pick one thing about all of this, it is inspiring.”

Check out these links to some of the topics Duncan and Spotswood brought up this week.

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