As if astronauts needed one more horror to worry about in the soul-crushing vacuum of deep space. Between the perils of cosmic radiation, the unknown side effects of unexplained genome changes, and the whole blowing up upon launch thing, it’s not easy being a space traveller. Now, a team of international medical researchers has conducted a study of astronauts’ health while aboard the International Space Station and has discovered a new threat: “space fever.” While space fever sounds like a perfect title for a 1950s B movie, the condition is actually a little understood and potentially life-threatening condition which could hamper our plans at deep space travel.
After combing through health records of eleven different ISS astronauts, researchers found that all astronauts’ body temperatures increased by 1°C (1.8°F) after just a few months in space and remained elevated for the duration of astronauts’ time in space. In their published data, the researchers claim that while mild, this “space fever” poses a significant problem for space agencies and their astronauts:
This space fever, as we may call it, has potential implications for long-term spaceflights in terms of astronauts’ health, well-being, and support, including energy, nutrient, and fluid requirements as well as physical and cognitive performance.
Even increase of body temperature of this small magnitude can lead to serious health complications if left unchecked for long periods of time. Along with the increased body temperatures, researchers also discovered increases in certain inflammation markers. Together, these all indicate that the human body is definitely better suited for life on Earth as opposed to space, meaning we have a lot more barriers to overcome than just fuel and food supplies before we can join Elon Musk’s car on Mars. We’ll figure it out though, right?
Wouldn’t that be a cruel irony to develop the means of deep space travel but be unable to go due to the limitations of these crude, stinking meat sacs we’re cursed to inhabit. Of course, given recent advances in gene editing, it likely won’t be long before we can simply create genetically advanced astronauts who can withstand deep space much better than our current models. As with everything though, we likely won’t know the long-term implications of such therapies until space stations are crawling with horrifying human hybrids hell-bent on eating brains and chewing gum. And I don’t need to tell you how scarce gum is in space. Should we aim for the stars no matter what the cost? Per aspera ad astra.