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NASA astronauts acclimating themselves to space adaptation syndrome in a KC-135 airplane that flies parabolic arcs to create short periods of weightlessness[1]

Space adaptation syndrome (SAS) or space sickness is a condition experienced by around half of space travelers during adaptation to weightlessness.[2] It is related to motion sickness, as the vestibular system adapts to weightlessness.[3]

Cause and remedy[edit]

Space motion sickness is caused by changes in g-forces, which affect spatial orientation in humans.[3] According to Science Daily, "Gravity plays a major role in our spatial orientation. Changes in gravitational forces, such as the transition to weightlessness during a space voyage, influence our spatial orientation and require adaptation by many of the physiological processes in which our balance system plays a part. As long as this adaptation is incomplete, this can be coupled to motion sickness (nausea), visual illusions and disorientation."[3]

Modern motion-sickness medications can counter space sickness but are rarely used because it is considered better to allow space travelers to adapt naturally over the first day or two than to suffer the drowsiness and other side effects of medication. However, transdermal dimenhydrinate anti-nausea patches are typically used whenever space suits are worn because vomiting into a space suit could be fatal. Space suits are generally worn during launch and landing by NASA crew members and always for extra-vehicular activities (EVAs). EVAs are consequently not usually scheduled for the first days of a mission to allow the crew to adapt, and transdermal dimenhydrinate patches are typically used as an additional backup measure.


Space motion sickness was effectively unknown during the earliest spaceflights as these were undertaken in very cramped conditions; it seems to be aggravated by being able to freely move around and so is more common in larger spacecraft.[4] After the Apollo 8 and Apollo 9 flights, where astronauts reported space motion sickness to Mission Control and then were subsequently removed from the flight list[citation needed], astronauts (e.g. the Skylab 4 crew) attempted to prevent Mission Control from learning about their own SAS experience, apparently out of concern for their future flight assignment potential.[citation needed]

As with sea sickness and car sickness, space motion sickness symptoms can vary from mild nausea and disorientation, to vomiting and intense discomfort; headaches and nausea are often reported in varying degrees. About half of sufferers experience mild symptoms; only around 10% suffer severely. The most extreme reaction yet recorded was that felt by Senator Jake Garn in 1985. After his flight NASA jokingly began using the informal "Garn scale" to measure reactions to space sickness. In most cases, symptoms last from 2–4 days. In an interview with Carol Butler, when asked about the origins of "Garn" Robert E. Stevenson was quoted as saying:[5]

Jake Garn was sick, was pretty sick. I don't know whether we should tell stories like that. But anyway, Jake Garn, he has made a mark in the Astronaut Corps because he represents the maximum level of space sickness that anyone can ever attain, and so the mark of being totally sick and totally incompetent is one Garn. Most guys will get maybe to a tenth Garn, if that high. And within the Astronaut Corps, he forever will be remembered by that.

— Robert E. Stevenson

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Mixed Up in Space". NASA. 2001-08-07. Retrieved 2009-05-28. 
  2. ^ Quine, Tony (April 2007). "Addicted to space: An appreciation of Anousheh Ansari, Part II". Spaceflight (British Interplanetary Society (BIS)) 49 (4): 144. ISSN 0038-6340. 
  3. ^ a b c "Why Do Astronauts Suffer From Space Sickness?". ScienceDaily. 2008-05-23. 
  4. ^ Kozlovskaya, Inessa B.; et al. (2004). "The Effects of Long-Duration Space Flight on Eye, Head, and Trunk Coordination During Locomotion". NASA Johnson Space Center. Retrieved 2008-02-07. 
  5. ^ "Interview with Dr. Robert Stevenson" (PDF). Johnson Space Center Oral History Project. May 13, 1999. p. 35. 

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_adaptation_syndrome — Please support Wikipedia.
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45 news items

SpaceFlight Insider

SpaceFlight Insider
Sat, 19 Sep 2015 04:03:59 -0700

(Besides, I took anti-nausea meds on the launch pad, eliminating any possibility of “space adaptation syndrome” that might require me to deploy my space sickness bag.) Of course, this was just the first launch morning breakfast I'd enjoy on STS-68. I ...


Fri, 30 Oct 2015 15:30:00 -0700

A comparison over a three-year period showed that a high proportion of medical events were physical problems. Space adaptation syndrome and nervous system problems accounted for 50 percent of all the medical events with infectious disease accounting ...


Thu, 17 Dec 2015 02:09:37 -0800

This is known as "space adaptation syndrome" and lasts a few days. Interestingly he will probably experience a similar disorientation on his return to Earth in six months time. He is also likely to feel travel sick and could vomit, and it's for this ...


Wed, 28 Oct 2015 08:00:05 -0700

Space adaptation syndrome and nervous system problems accounted for 50% of all the medical events with infectious disease accounting for only 1.4% of such issues. Astronauts further reduce the possibility of infection through periods of quarantine ...

First Coast News

First Coast News
Sun, 12 Jul 2015 11:46:24 -0700

8) 'Space Adaptation Syndrome' is real and terrifying. SAS is caused by the zero-G in space. Weightlessness apparently wreaks havoc on the human body if endured long enough. According to Science Daily, SAS can lead to nausea, disorientation, and even ...

Virginia Connection Newspapers

Virginia Connection Newspapers
Thu, 08 Oct 2015 12:37:43 -0700

He also explained more about space adaptation syndrome, a type of motion sickness. To conclude, Lindgren offered the advice to “make that goal and work toward it every day.” For students interested in becoming astronauts themselves, being part of the ...


Mon, 03 Mar 2014 23:30:00 -0800

For starters, about half of the planet's astronauts already suffer from Space Adaptation Syndrome (SAS), a condition that includes severe nausea and disorientation. Gravity is integral to how the brain works out spatial orientation. The brain gets ...

Universe Today

Universe Today
Thu, 02 May 2013 06:55:09 -0700

But let's put space adaptation syndrome into perspective. Senator Jake Garn, when he flew on shuttle Discovery in 1985, famously became quite ill for reasons often attributed to motion sickness. After his return, there were those within NASA that began ...

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