NASA has issued a warning about space herpes after a study found viruses were reactivating in crew aboard Space Shuttle and International Space Station missions.
Most concerning were rising incidences of debilitating space manflu striking male astronauts and increasing stress and anxiety in their female colleagues.
“NASA astronauts endure weeks or even months exposed to microgravity and cosmic radiation – not to mention the extreme G forces of take-off and re-entry,” said Dr Satish Mehta.
“This physical challenge is compounded by more familiar stressors like social separation, confinement and an altered sleep-wake cycle,” added Dr Mehta, senior author of the paper and academic at the Johnson Space Centre.
The study analyses reports of male astronauts frequently complaining of “not being able to get up” and needing to “just lie down” despite being weightless and in the absence of gravity technically always lying down.
“During spaceflight there is a rise in secretion of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which are known to suppress the immune system,” the study found.
The stress hormones were particularly high in female astronauts in mixed gender missions. Reports were received by mission controllers from female astronauts experiencing high levels of stress from “having to do everything”, because “Commander Soft Arse won’t lift a finger”.
NASA recently cut short a mission on the International Space Station as two male astronauts “constantly sniffling” were spending up to 20 hours a day in spacesuits being towed behind the orbiting facility, to get them “out of the bloody way”.
The viruses are mostly kept suppressed by the immune system, but if the immune system itself is suppressed by space exploration, then they could pose significant risks to astronauts travelling to Mars or beyond.
In anticipation of space manflu reactivating and threatening to jeopardise future long-distance travel, NASA have been focusing on all-female spacewalks which has improved efficiency by cutting down on the scheduling of exterior maintenance around the broadcast times major sporting events.
The research found that the longer the spaceflight mission, the more it seemed the viruses were reactivating.
Only when there was a live stream to earth and a trick with a weightless object was needed did the manflu-stricken astronauts feel well enough to cooperate.
NASA are currently developing a manflu vaccine, called ‘The Right Stuff’.