SPACE: THE ROUGH GUIDE

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Indy Lifestyle Online
It may seem like a long way to go for a facelift, but those who have been there say you can't beat it. "You start looking wonderfully young," says one who has tried the method. "No wrinkles, nice thin legs."

Shiatsu massage? Not quite. Gravity boots? Getting closer. Actually, those are the effects of spending a while in space. Because your body is moulded by the arrangement of its fluid contents (and we are mostly water, after all), the Earth's gravity means fluids tend to head downwards. Hence your face sags and your legs get fatter.

But when you are weightless, the fluids don't have any particular direction to go; which means that they tend to stay where they were. Presto, no more fat legs.

But, as Helen Sharman, the first British astronaut (in 1991) points out, you have to pay a price for that. "Every cell in your head gets full of fluid." The result is thumping headaches, high blood pressure and, for anyone with asthma, breathing can become a problem. Furthermore, you tend to feel sick, because the fluid in your ears (which dictates balance) has no "down".

The biggest problem with space, though, remains that of getting there. Take-off usually imposes a 3G acceleration for up to a minute, rather than the brief seconds of a funfair ride. And the fact that - like the Mir astronauts - you know that death is just a bad cargo docking away, and rescue involves a lot more than dialling 999 means the mental pressure is enormous. Extended trips, such as a year-long voyage to Mars, would probably end in bloodshed without careful psychological screening. After all, how many family trips end in fights? In space, there are no motorway service stations where you can pull over and resolve back-seat squabbles. Space remains a place for professionals, at least for the foreseeable future. But don't worry too much: even that facelift disappears once you're back on the ground.

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