Surgeon Astronaut Experience on the Effects of Microgravity on the Body's System

Presented at the 40th Annual VEITHsymposium in New York

NEW YORK, Nov. 22, 2013 /PRNewswire-iReach/ -- The human body begins to adapt to microgravity of low Earth orbit shortly after launch, according to surgeon astronaut Dr. Lee M. Morin, Astronaut Mission Specialist, NASA Johnson Space Center (Houston, Texas).

"Evolution has not prepared the human body for the space environment, however the human body does successfully adapt to space.  These changes begin immediately upon exposure to microgravity although understanding is confounded by the stresses during launch from the Earth's surface into low Earth orbit.  The engineering and physics constraints of rocket science bracket the launch duration to furious eight or nine minutes.  Immediately post-insertion, adaptation begins," said Dr. Morin at the 40th Annual VEITHsymposium. Dr. Morin visited the International Space Station in 2002 as part of the STS-110 Atlantis space shuttle crew.

Dr. Morin shared his experience in space, along with the effects of microgravity on the body's systems. Right away fluid shifts from the lower extremities to the upper part of the body and superficial veins in the neck become engorged. Within the first 15 minutes, up to two-thirds of astronauts suffer from motion sickness that can last up to 7 days.

The cardiovascular system experiences a number of changes, including increased cardiac output; a 10% to 15% plasma volume loss begins immediately, along with a 10% reduction in erythrocyte mass. "Fortunately, cardiovascular changes of space do not threaten survival. There is no increase of arrhythmias in space," said Dr. Morin.

Changes to the musculoskeletal system develop with medium to long-term microgravity exposures.  Skeletal muscle atrophies and strength is lost. Bone mineral density is also affected with a loss rate of about 1.5 % per month from the weight bearing bones. However, "over the past decade we have learned to control these losses with heavy resistive exercise on a daily basis," he said.

Radiation exposure is the most significant health threat in microgravity. Spacecraft can only be partially shielded from radiation. "Crew can sense radiation, they often report light flashes within their eyes, usually when eyes are closed pre-sleep," said Dr. Morin. The primary radiation risk to the crew is increased lifetime cancer mortality.

 About VEITHsymposium: Now in its fourth decade, VEITHsymposium provides vascular surgeons, interventional radiologists, interventional cardiologists and other vascular specialists with a unique and exciting format to learn the most current information about what is new and important in the treatment of vascular disease. The 5-day event features over 750 rapid-fire presentations from world-renowned vascular specialists with emphasis on the latest advances, changing concepts in diagnosis and management, pressing controversies and new techniques. To register to attend the VEITHsymposium, please visit or contact Pauline T. Mayer at 631.979.3780 or email.

Media Contact: Pauline Mayer, PTM Healthcare Marketing, Inc., 631-979-3780,

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