SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - High above the earth's protective atmosphere you'll find a never-ending dimension. A new frontier, both awe-inspiring and lethal. Exciting space research is happening right here in San Diego.
Astronauts spend upwards of six months on the international space station. While the floating hair and carefree motion looks inviting, the lack of gravity is jeopardizing astronauts' long term health.
"Vision impairment, loss of bone, loss of muscle… it's very similar to aging on Earth," Dr. Alan Hargens said.
It turns out gravity is a necessary ingredient for our overall health here on earth and in the greater galaxy. Dr. Hargens' Clinical Physiology Laboratory at U.C. San Diego is leading the research in space physiology.
"Our negative pressure concept is like a Model-T centrifuge. It's an early, cheap, simple way to generate body weight, and also a fluid shift back to the feet," Hargens said.
Putting his research to the test, I volunteered. No space trip for me -- rather a feet-first experience in the lower body negative pressure chamber.
"On the Space Station, it's a micro-gravity environment, so they don't really have any gravity at all. The exercise equipment is mainly for the fitness, for the muscle and for the bone. Unfortunately it's not to reverse the fluid shift. So that's where we think our concepts will be of benefit to the astronauts," Hargens said.
Hargens is also concerned about vision in space.
"When they lose gravity, the fluid shifts from the lower body up to the head and raises intercranial pressure," he said.