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John Batchelor “Hotel Mars,” Wednesday, 12-7-11 December 8, 2011

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John Batchelor “Hotel Mars,” Wednesday, 12-7-11

This segment features Mr. Batchelor,  Dr.Space and Dr. John Jurist discussing bone loss in space


Guests:  John Batchelor, Dr. David Livingston, Dr. John Jurist.  Topics:  Bone loss issues for short and long duration spaceflight.  You are invited to comment, ask questions, and discuss the Space Show program/guest(s) on the Space Show blog, https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com.  Comments, questions, and any discussion must be relevant and applicable to Space Show programming. Transcripts of Space Show programs are not permitted without prior written consent from The Space Show (even if for personal use) & are a violation of the Space Show copyright. The Space Show/OGLF is now engaged in its annual fundraising drive. Please see & act upon our appeal at https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com/2011/11/21/space-show-2011-fundraising-campaign.  As many of you know, I have been doing a weekly segment on the John Batchelor Radio Show with Mr. Batchelor on various space topics.  Sometimes I appear with John as the only guest on the segment, at other times I co-host the segment with John and bring on board an expert in the subject being discussed. Mr. Batchelor has given The Space Show permission for these segments to be archived on The Space Show site and blog.  Mr. Batchelor calls these segments “Hotel Mars” and they are targeted toward his significant live and podcast highly educated general audience.  Find out more about the excellent John Batchelor Show and listen to his archived segments at http://johnbatchelorshow.com.  You can hear the live stream of his show if it is not carried live in your radio market at www.wabcradio.com/article.asp?id=531472.  For this segment of Hotel Mars, we discussed bone loss in space and the use of the class of drugs known as bisphosphonates in treating bone loss issues.  This discussion was prompted by various news reports such as this one:  www.dispatch.com/content/stories/national_world/2011/12/06/osteoporosis-drugs-helped-astronauts-scientists-say.html.  Our special guest was Dr. John Jurist and I co-hosted the segment with Mr. Batchelor.  During our eleven minute segment, we addressed bone loss issues for both short duration and long duration spaceflight.  We talked about the use of bisphosphonates, the benefits and the risks associated with them.  We also addressed artificial gravity, issues of both lunar and Martian gravity, and the seriousness of the bone loss issue as well as the other human factors issues primarily for the longer duration voyages.  Post any comments/questions that you might have regarding this John Batchelor Show segment on The Space Show blog URL above.  We thank Mr. Batchelor for allowing us to archive this segment on The Space Show website and blog.  Please note that the copyright to this material remains with The John Batchelor Show.  Any and all uses of this material must be approved by John Batchelor.


1. Joe - December 8, 2011

I applaude the great exposure to the public on the concerns of the bone loss problem. We are slowly realizing that this hideous space disease is causing astronauts to currently and historically suffer in space. Millions of people need to be constantly reminded that the cost of risking your life in going to space is compounded by the guaranteed suffering you will experience; the longer you stay up there. And that goes equally well with extreme radiation exposure, too, i.e., another long duration problem that needs to be addressed with different approaches not related to partial gravity exposure.

My hope was that instead of proposing sending people to live long duration on the Moon to see if that helps, which, by the way, is extremely dangerous, expensive, political, and complicated as is the idea of spinning a tethered spacecraft, you could have included a proposal of doing a simple experiment using existing centrifuges on the ISS and small female mice. Doing this simple, inexpensive, safe, non-political experiment using existing equipment does one important thing. It creates scientific results that can only be ascertained in space that could potentially derive instant buy-in to the idea of sending people on long duration space exploration missions where they do not suffer substantial bone loss.

The day will eventually come when we do indeed solve the bone loss problem with tethered spacecraft. It will only come after conducting several incremental and carefully thought-out approaches designed to produce a scientific basis at the basic mammalian level that artificially created gravity in a zero-G space environment can and will stop bone loss.

The only way to convince millions of people we need to go to the Moon again is based on the public perception of a nuclear threat from China and their quest to dominate the world by sending their people to the Moon like the Russians did in the 60’s. Just because we have credentialed experts that say we need to go to the Moon because they believe water is there and that we could process it to produce rocket fuel to go further out is choosing the chicken before the egg. The more cost effective solution to sending people further out is to store limitless earth-processed fuel in fuel depots in low earth orbit that any space fairing nation can get to on a competitive basis.

Thanks David and John for all that you do!

drspaceshow - December 10, 2011

Joe, interesting comments. These segments are 11 minutes long. Not much time to say so much. FYI, I am working on a Classroom webinar program regarding the comprehensive issue of bone loss. Also fyi, my scientist friends tell me a mouse is not a good analog for bone loss in humans. Better analogs are dogs and chimps but of course that won’t happen on the ISS or anyplace else given the direction we are going with our space program and resolving human factors issues. Too bad too.

Thanks again for the post. I hope the program I am hoping to put together materiaizes for early next year.

All the best for the holidays and New Years to you and your family.


Joe - December 10, 2011

Wow! I am surprised I got your attention enough to respond, which means I got you and others thinking about it and further committed to finding a way. It is only when hundreds and perhaps thousands of people start thinking about the real human factor issues of long duration missions, will it get solved. This fact can only be changed after new and unspoiled generations of young scientists begin to think outside of the box and innovate new and efficient ways to overcome these clear and present dangers to our beloved astronauts. Finding the path through the least resistance wins every time. While it may be true, that indeed mouse bones are not analogous to human bones on the ground, the potential still remains that they could turn out to be analogous in space because no one has done this before. A simple, safe, and inexpensive experiment that works to any degree takes a huge leap in the desire to send human beyond Earth orbit. Simulating zero-G on the ground is never going to be achieved like it is actually achieved in space.

I believe there is a really huge barrier to conducting artificial gravity in space to solve the bone loss issue. If it is solved, then there is no need to constantly replace bone depleted astronauts with astronauts with fresh bones to deplete. The flight rate is substantially diminished. Instead of launching rockets every 3 months, they launch rockets once a year or even longer. As for the radiation issue, we could send up different materials such as lightweight and space environment-protected Styrofoam wrap that surrounds a radiation measuring instrument and simply measure the radiation with and without the wrap. This has not been done to date and it represents a simple and inexpensive way to achieve the desired result. The reason we have not done this is primarily due to the fear of discovering a solution and the resulting impact it will have on the existing rocket production paradigm which I will illuminate next. It is similar to alcoholism. You have to admit your problem first before you can address the disease. SImple treating the problem without first admitting to it leads to a repetitive series of submissions to the disease.

The people who control access to space, i.e., the rocket funders, are not scientifically oriented. They are primarily oriented to the flourishment of capitalism which is our accepted way of living. An undeniable goal of the ISS is to simply go there with as many profitable rockets as possible to sustain the rocket producing companies and get lots of beautiful pictures and adventurous stories from space that capture the public’s attention. There is nothing wrong with this goal since it keeps us employed for years and years on the ground and gets as many people up there as possible to experience what space has to offer. The needs of the many, on the ground, outweigh those of the few that get to go to space. But, as we can clearly see, this goal has its drawbacks in the pursuance of long duration missions. Long duration missions in this context are meant to last longer than it takes to dissolve weight bearing bones beyond their strength or recovery capacity.

The point is, if bone loss is halted on mice in space, and or the dizzying aspects of spinning are overcome, the door opens to the next incremental step and the one after that until we change the existing rocket production paradigm and stop bone loss on humans living long duration in space using the most efficient way. We can do this! We can do this without the need to overcome overwhelming initial barriers to hugely expensive space programs focused entirely on addressing the human factors of long duration missions.

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