Besides the hundreds of technical problems that astronauts are responsible for during a space flight, it appears that dealing with a huge herpes outbreak is one of the most serious:
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station and other missions have been plagued by a resurgence in the often-dormant virus because of the stress of space travel, according to a study by NASA researchers published in this month’s issue of the journal Frontiers in Microbiology, The New York Post reported.
Roughly 53 percent of astronauts on short-term space shuttle flights show signs of herpes, according to the study’s lead researcher, Satish Mehta.
Exposure to microgravity and cosmic radiation, along with the force of take-off wreaks havoc on space travellers’ immune systems.
“During space flight there is a rise in secretion of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which are known to suppress the immune system,” said Satish, who is a researcher at Johnson Space Center.
“In keeping with this, we find that astronauts’ immune cells — particularly those that normally suppress and eliminate viruses — become less effective during space flight and sometimes for up to 60 days after.”
That could be dangerous during longer space flight missions, such as ones sore-ing — er, soaring! — to Mars, the researchers said.
In total, 47 out of 89 astronauts on short space shuttle missions, and 14 out of 23 on long ones showed signs of the virus.
“These frequencies — as well as the quantity — of viral shedding are markedly higher than in samples from before or after flight, or from matched healthy controls,” Satish said.
The 1960s brought space travel and The Pill, along with the so-called “Sexual Revolution”, which has ushered in the STD Generations. Common STDs like Herpes spread like wildfire through the American population, with Blacks being especially hard hit. Our first generation of astronauts, like John Glenn and Neil Armstrong, probably didn’t have herpes because they grew up in a far more White and Christian America.
But today’s aspiring astronauts grew up with “Yo MTV Raps!”, HPV, and hook-up culture, so it should not come as a surprise that many of them are having nasty herpes outbreaks under the stress of space travel. And it would have taken the romance and wonder out of the Gemini flights if NASA had announced that John Glenn was being treated for a herpes outbreak while he went through the quarantine process upon re-entry after orbiting the planet. Herpes just makes space travel seem a little less heroic.