Musculoskeletal Response to Space Flight

  • Linda C. ShackelfordEmail author


This chapter focuses on the effects of weightlessness on the structural integrity of bone, muscle, and connective tissue, with an emphasis on the biomechanical changes, both as cause and effect. With regard to the human, the dominant spaceflight factor influencing physiological changes is weightlessness. Given that functional loading is known to increase bone and muscle mass, loss of bone and muscle integrity are an expected consequence of space flight where such loading is diminished. Losses of muscle strength and volume have been measured after 5- to 16-day Space Shuttle missions. Increased urinary excretion of calcium indicated increased bone resorption during short duration Gemini, Apollo, and Space Shuttle missions. Longer duration Skylab and Mir missions were required to detect changes in bone density. These observed changes raised early concern that muscle atrophy and bone loss could increase risks of long-term space flight to unacceptable levels unless adequate countermeasures were developed to prevent the losses.


Exercise countermeasures for space flight Mechanical loading Bone loss in space flight Unloading in microgravity Musculoskeletal deconditioning 


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Suggested Reading

  1. Orwoll ES, Adler RA, Shreyasee A, et al. Skeletal heath in long-duration astronauts: nature, assessment, and management recommendations from the NASA bone summit. J Bone Miner Res. 2013;28(6):1243–55.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.NASA Johnson Space CenterHoustonUSA
  2. 2.Houston Methodist HospitalHoustonUSA

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