As if homesickness, wasting muscles, thinner bones, an elevated cancer risk, the inescapable company of overachievers and the prospect of death in the endless vacuum of space were not enough to contend with, male astronauts may return from deep space prone to erectile dysfunction, scientists say. From a report:
In what is claimed to be the first study to assess the impact of galactic radiation and weightlessness on male sexual health, Nasa-funded researchers found that galactic cosmic rays, and to a lesser extent microgravity, can impair the function of erectile tissues, with effects lasting potentially for decades. Raising their concerns in a report on Wednesday, the US researchers said they had identified “a new health risk to consider with deep space exploration.” They called for the sexual health of astronauts to be closely monitored on their return from future deep space missions, noting that certain antioxidants may help to counteract the ill-effects by blocking harmful biological processes.
“While the negative impacts of galactic cosmic radiation were long-lasting, functional improvements induced by acutely targeting the redox and nitric oxide pathways in the tissues suggest that the erectile dysfunction may be treatable,” said Dr Justin La Favor, an expert in neurovascular dysfunction at Florida State University and a senior author on the study. The warning comes amid a renewed focus on deep space missions, with Nasa and other major space agencies preparing for long-term expeditions to the moon and more ambitious voyages to Mars. Nasa’s Artemis programme aspires to send astronauts to the moon as early as next year, with crewed missions to Mars tentatively lined up for as early as 2040.