Space travel's deleterious effect on the human muscular system leads to a quick and noticeable atrophy, thus causing a problem in regard to long-term space flights. While the problem is obvious, the process of the wasting away of tissue is not clearly understood.
It has been shown on long-term space missions lasting up to one year that the microgravity of outer space causes the human muscular system to adapt to the drastically different environment.
In space, because they no longer need their legs to walk around, astronauts float from place to place rather than walk. The reduced load on their muscles leads to atrophy or wasting away of muscle tissue and bone mass.
The atrophy causes no problems in microgravity, but the difficulty becomes apparent upon return to Earth, when the astronaut's body is no longer strong enough for weight bearing and must re-adapt to normal gravitational conditions.
Astronauts are currently required to exercise two hours daily while in space. Though not a perfect solution, it does slow muscle atrophy and bone loss.
Considering present technology, long-term space travel would significantly degrade an astronaut's fitness upon return to Earth. How much and for how long is still subject to debate.
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