REVIEW: Why Am I Taller? by Dave Williams and Elizabeth Howell
What happens in space that causes the body to change? Learn about life in space from astronauts
Is the human body built for Mars? NASA’s studies on the International Space Station show we need to fix a few things before sending people to the Red Planet. Astronauts go into space with good vision and come back needing eyeglasses. Cognition and DNA expression could be affected for years. And then there’s the discomfort of living in a tight space with crewmates, depression, and separation from the people you love.
Space doctors are on the case. You’ll meet the first twin to spend a year in space, the woman who racked up three physically challenging spacewalks in between 320 days of confinement, and the cosmonaut who was temporarily stranded on space station Mir while the Soviet Union broke up underneath him. What are we learning about the human body?
As astronauts target moon missions and eventual landings on Mars, one of the major questions is how the human body will behave in “partial gravity.” How does the human body change on another world, as opposed to floating freely in microgravity? What can studies on Earth and in space tell us about planetary exploration? These questions will be important to the future of space exploration and to related studies of seniors and people with reduced mobility on Earth.
With all the private space initiatives, the ISS, and determination of government space agencies to return humans to the moon and then head for Mars this seemed like a timely book. It’s packed with interesting information about how living in space affects humans and how this, in turn, could affect future space travel and colonization.
Dave Williams, a medical doctor and astronaut himself, and space journalist Elizabeth Howell have written a book that is not only easy to read and understand but also full of cool stuff. Humans might think floating around in the space station looks effortless but space is not the environment in which humans evolved and some weird and potentially harmful things can happen to us there.
We’re all used to NASA and ESA acronyms but how about “puffy-face bird-leg syndrome”? What is the problem facing many astronauts that guitarists and equine veterinarians might have a solution for? Does the ISS have its own microbiome and what happens to that of astronauts who spend months there? What can be done to help prevent bone density loss and why do astronauts often request extra spicy spices and sauces for their food? Believe it or not, there are people tasked with trying to prevent Earth contamination from retrieved Martian soil samples as well as preventing Earth contaminants from spoiling other planets and moons in the solar system. And let’s not even discuss shed skin cells on the ISS.
Things learned by space agencies trying to protect astronauts or help them return to their normal states of health after being in microgravity situations might also help senior citizens hold off or reverse the effects of aging. So why are astronauts taller? Because without the force of gravity compressing spinal discs, they tend to “separate” just a bit. Unfortunately, astronauts immediately lose their gained height upon returning to Earth. Space travel for ordinary citizens isn’t here quite yet but after reading this book, we can get an in depth idea of what it’s like. B