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Study Finds Women More Resilient to Space Travel Stress

A new study suggests that women may be more resilient to the stresses of space travel than men, potentially influencing astronaut recovery programs and crew selections for future missions

A groundbreaking study published in Nature Communications suggests that women may be more resilient than men to the stresses of space travel, potentially influencing future astronaut recovery programs and crew selections for missions to the Moon and beyond. 

Led by Christopher Mason, a professor of physiology at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York, the research examined the immune responses of two male and two female civilians who orbited the Earth aboard the SpaceX Inspiration4 mission in 2021. The study also compared these findings with data from 64 other astronauts.

Results indicated that genetic activity disruptions were more pronounced in men, who also required more time to return to normal levels. A notable difference was observed in fibrinogen, a protein crucial for blood clotting, which was significantly impacted in males.

Preliminary findings show that the regulatory and immune gene responses to spaceflight are more sensitive in males, suggesting potential implications for recovery time and crew composition—potentially favoring more female participants in future high-altitude and deep-space missions.

The reasons behind women’s greater resilience to spaceflight conditions remain unclear, but Mason speculates it could be linked to their ability to handle the physiological demands of pregnancy. “The capability to tolerate significant changes in physiology and fluid dynamics might not only be advantageous for managing pregnancy but also for coping with the physiological stress of space travel,” Mason suggests.

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