Author: Wang Yuofu
Affiliation: Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, China, 100083
Conference/Journal: 4th Intl Conf on Qigong
Date published: 1995
Other: Pages: 9-12 , Word Count: 1817
This article elaborates space illnesses caused by weightlessness to astronauts, believing that physical exercise is an important way to overcome physiological and psychological illnesses, and that Taijiquan is an effective exercise in outer space. And it also analyzes theoretically Taijiquan's effect on overcoming space illnesses.
With the development of modem science and technology, especially the development of space technology, the mankind is speeding up the exploration of outer space. From the beginning of 90's, U.S.A., CIS, Japan, Europe and China have respectively made huge long-term plans for space expansion, which are being rapidly and steadily carried out. Today space exploration has entered a new phase which is characterized by not only high technology but manned space flight. This is a necessary stage on the way to the space expansion.
After the landing on the moon by manned vehicle years ago, the next aim of manned space flight is Mars. Scientists think that Mars, among the nine planets in solar system, is the planet which man has the easiest access to and which contributes the most to the scientific research. Its environment is similar to that of the Earth. But people still feel unsure if there exists life or there existed life. For further knowledge of geology, geomorphology, climate, biological condition and resources on Mars, it is quite necessary for man to land on the planet. Moreover, manned flight to Mars is very significant in various aspects of politics, economy, military science and technology.
Trip to Mars and Health of Astronauts
Manned space flight to Mars is much more difficult than flight to the Moon. The journey to and from between Earth and Mars will spend two to three years. When separated from the Earth on which man depends for tens of thousands of years and entering a utterly different circumstance in outer space, human bodies will be subject to imbalances and illness of many kinds. In 1985, the 'Salvo Seven' of the former Soviet Unions, returned to the Earth after its 237-day-flight in outer space. The astronaut, Astov, who had received scientific training for a long time, was carried by a stretcher to attend a news conference. He looked haggard. He had lost much weight. His muscles became atrophied and his bones obviously lacked calcium. Consequently he couldn't walk or even support himself in an erect position after he returned to the Earth. On December 21, 1987, another astronaut of former Soviet Unions Jure Romaniako was immediately taken to the space medical treatment center near Moscow because of degeneration. He went back to the Earth after a stay in the space for three hundred and twenty-six days in 'Peace' Spaceport. On June 5th 1991, American 'Columbia' space shuttle carried seven astronauts to have medical experiments in out space. Nine days later, when they got back, they suffered from osteoporosis, amyotrophy, functional imbalance of cardiovascular system. These symptoms are called space illness. It is caused by being in the state of weightlessness for a long time. Human beings are born and grow under the gravitation. Once the gravitation disappears or becomes weak, the metabolic imbalance of calcium in bones will occur. The growth of bones will be inhibited and the exertion of the calcium will increase, which finally leads to osteoporosis. At the same time slight weightness or weightlessness will induce decrease of load on astronauts body so that their muscular fibers degenerate, muscular tension reduces and muscles atrophy occur. Therefore they will have difficulty in erecting and walking after they come back. Furthermore, imbalance of cardiovascular system, failure to immunity function and obstacles in nervous system will not only affect astronauts' health but also affect the accomplishment of flight tasks. As a new subject, space medicine is developing. Illness caused by weightlessness is an urgent problem to solve. This is a great subject confronting us in the process of exploring Mars.
Health of Astronauts and Chines Taiiiquan
An Indian astronaut took part in the flight of 'Salvo Seven' Spaceship. When he entered the state of weightlessness, he immediately practiced Yoga. As a result he felt well and had no unhealthy reaction. Indian Yoga is very similar to Chinese Qi Gong, while Taijiquan is one member of Qi Gong family. Furthermore, a great number of emulated space tests on he Earth and space flight practices have proved that regular physical trainings are decisively important to overcome the physiological and psychological disorders caused by weightlessness. The effect of a more scientific physical training on the human body will be no way replaced by any other medical approaches. It is the same on the Earth as in outer space. However, at present, various sports events such as ball games, athletics, aquatic sports and air sports all make use of the gravitation and movement inertia. But sports in space will inevitably be done in the circumstance of slight weightless or weightlessness. So it will be better if they are done with the least inertia possible. Chines Taijiquan happens to satisfy this purpose. Because Taijiquan is slow and soft, seeking tranquillity in movement. It doesn't so depend on the gravitation as other sports. Moreover in the process of doing Taijiquan little inertia will be produced. Therefore, Taijiquan is the most suitable exercise for space astronauts. It makes astronauts feel a quasi-static equilibrium from very slow movement. Health of astronauts will be promoted through its relaxation, softness, tranquillity and slowness. Those sports which depend on gravitation and inertia have great acceleration, impact force, elastic force and reacting force. If they are practiced under the condition of weightlessness, such uncontrollable things will occur: the astronauts rapidly float and fly, bumping into the capsule even flying away from the orbit.
When astronauts have a long travel in space, if they practice Taijiquan regularly and scientifically with a soft, steady, harmonious, continuous, smooth and natural posture, their bones and joints will move freely and blood circulation will be smooth so that the bones can get plenty nutrition and oxygen. It promotes the metabolism of skeletal muscles, improves the hemopeoieitic ability of red bone marrow and guarantees the nutrition of muscles, making muscles always under the aerobic condition. These provide a way to solve a deprivation of calcium, osteoporosis and amyotrophy in the state of weightlessness.
When astronauts enter the space, weightlessness causes the redistribution of their body fluid, consequently, their hearts and circulation of blood are off balance, and central blood dynamic and partial blood dynamic have changed. As a result, astronauts feel nervous and can't concentrate on their work. When such things occur, if astronauts can practice Taijiquan consciously, vagus nerve will enhance control of heart so as to increase contractile ability and reduce the frequency of palpitation. Thus the imbalance of cardiovascular system will be improved to some extent.
As astronaut are separated from society and families, loneliness and silence will bring agitation, tension and low spirit. This unhealthy psychology hinders the astronauts' work. In addition, hard work, long mental strain, confusion of day and night, and disorder of work an rest make astronauts more nervous and upset. So the secretion of adrenaline shows the sign of disorder, and the regulation of body fluid meets obstacles which results in the imbalance of cardiovascular system. Taijiquan stresses relaxation, stillness and naturalness. When astronauts practice Taijiquan in space, if they can concentrate on the spirit of Taijiquan, their central nerve system will be adjusted and their cerebral cortex will get protection and inhibition. Experiments have proved that Taijiquan practice may help reduce the frequency of brain waves and increase amplitude, indicating the function of brain has been improved. Then astronauts are high-spirited and more efficient. The experiments also show that ordinary people can improve the balance of sympathetic nerves and parasympathetic nerves by practicing Taijiquan. This improvement decreases external disturbance and stabilizes internal mood. All of these will promoted the function areas of astronauts' brains to coordinate one another and release nervousness, agitation and upsetness caused by mental strain, hard work, confusion of day and night, and disorder of work and rest.
In summary, practicing Taijiquan regularly and scientifically has great value in overcoming space illnesses. It also has greater significance in space medical study for man's landing on Mars.
The Contribution of Taiiiquan in the Exploration of Mars
Chinese Taijiquan can make contributions to the exploit of man's landing on Marcs which is not far away. U.S.A. and former Soviet Unions have already begun the preparation. In 1992 they have pulled open the prelude for thoroughly exploring Mars. U.S.A. has made a plan of three stages. To launch 'Mars Observer' spacecraft in 1992 is the main plan for the first stage, which has been put into realization on September 24, 1992, with a cost of four hundred and fifty million dollars. The spacecraft will fly around Mars on an orbit synchronous with the sun to ascertain its topography, magnetic field, gravitational field, atmosphere structure, and minerals features and to make a chart of climate of it so as to help future manned spacecraft choose a suitable landing spot. 'Mars Observer' weighing 2487kg is a pioneer in the process of man's landing on Mars. In the second stage namely from the later 90's on, several 'Mars traveler' will be launched successively. Their task is to guarantee the safety of man's landing on Mars. All these are necessary to make out: Are there poisonous materials or hostile beings? Where is a safe spot for landing? Where contains rich resources? These Mars travelers will land on Mars from those spacecrafts flying around the Mars. Then they will travel on Mars with a speed of eight kilometers every day. They can drill, take samples and keep them to bring back to the Earth. Some of the 'travelers: will remain on Mars in order that astronauts who land on Mars can use them.. At the same time, scientist will study a way for astronauts who grasp the spirit of Taijiquan will be able to resist various space illnesses such as osteoporosis, amyotrophy, imbalance of cardiovascular system, decrease of immunity and vexation. The third state is to realize the exploration of Mars by man's landing. U.S.A. plans to send astronauts to Mars in 2004, 2007, 2011 and 2015, and set factories to produce propellant so as to prepare for man's continuous flying to Mars. It is a time for Chinese Taijiquan to yield brilliant results in outer space. If Taijiquan is accepted and used by astronauts as a major mean for physical training and health care it will evidently contribute to the puzzled space biomedical project and space medicine.
For the recent decade space technology has been developing quite rapidly. Nowadays space exploration has entered a new phase - manned space flight. Therefore, the future development of space undertakings depend more on man's physical endurance in outer space, space biomedical project and space medicine than on space technology itself. With its unique exercises biomechanical character, Chinese Taijiquan will play an important role.