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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, 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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Mon, 03 Mar 2014 23:34:36 -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 ...
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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 ...
Mon, 07 Oct 2013 13:02:34 -0700

Yes, about 40 percent of first-time fliers experience some degree of Space Adaptation Syndrome, what we call SAS or space motion sickness. We have good medicines for it onboard now, but typically it's limited to the first couple days of flight. And we ...

National Geographic

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Fri, 12 Apr 2013 08:56:15 -0700

Now it's known to be common among space travelers and even bears a medical name: space adaptation syndrome. Modern studies focus on the effects of long-term space travel, as eyes turn to Mars and people spend months—even longer than a year in the ...

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Space Adaptation Syndrome or 'space sickness,' which scars the start of an expedition for some astronauts, is caused by a sudden change in spatial orientation. The satisfaction of weighing zero Newton is also temporary, and ends once the shuttle re ...

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