How hard would it be for humans to colonize an exoplanet with a size
significantly different than that of earth (but otherwise suitable for
Let's deal with low-gravity exoplanets first:
Much of the data has been obtained by experiments on people in micro-gravity and zero gravity - so much has to be extrapolated from these data sets.
Short Term Issues:
"...crew members face an increased risk of developing kidney stones, due to
decreased urine output, urine acidity, and increased calcium excretion
of bone loss).
Results from this investigation suggest that supplementation with
citrate may decrease the risk of renal stone formation..."
So that's perhaps simple to resolve.
Long Term Issues:
Disuse Osteoporosis and Muscle Mass Decrease.
This has been well documented in zero and microgravity studies
Obvious things like Nervous system protection by the skull and spine would make it necessary to maintain a certain degree of bone density.
Whilst Muscle mass and bone density decrease after extended periods in low-gravity could be considered an adaptive function - and may only become an issue if people are going to move between different gravity environments - there are other associated considerations.
Essential Nutrient depletion.
"Between meals, the body maintains a constant concentration of calcium
by absorbing it from bone and releasing it into the bloodstream. This
constant calcium level in the bloodstream allows proper neural,
muscular, and endocrine (hormone) functioning, as well as other
cellular activities (e.g., blood clotting).
Bone is also a good source of phosphate, hydrogen, potassium, and
magnesium. Like calcium, these minerals are used by many systems of
the body for a wide range of purposes.
Less buffer is available during the day if less mineral is present in
total, probably making mineral supplements essential.Researchers are
currently pursuing multiple lines of research, including hormone
level, diet, and exercise."
"For example, nine of the 27 astronauts (33 percent) exhibited
expansion of the cerebrospinal fluid space surrounding the optic
nerve, and six (22 percent) showed flattening of the back of the
eyeball, researchers said.
Micro-gravity-induced intracranial hypertension represents a
hypothetical risk factor and a potential limitation to long-duration
A series of experiments at NASA is designed to test this:
" It is hypothesized that the head-ward fluid shift that occurs ...
leads to increased pressure in the brain, which may push on the back
of the eye, causing it to change shape.
10.22.18 Results of experiments: Science Results for Everyone Information Pending"
Stiff Arteries, Hypertension, Cardiovascular Disease:
"As humans get older on Earth, arteries stiffen and this causes an
increase in blood pressure (hypertension) and elevates the risk for
cardiovascular disease. Recently, it has been observed that some crew
members returning from the International Space Station (ISS) have much
stiffer arteries than when they went into space. The results could
provide insight into potential countermeasures to help maintain crew
member health, and quality of life for everyone.
10.25.18 Science Results for Everyone Information Pending "
Inflammatory and Oxidative stress.
"The objective of Defining the Relationship Between Biomarkers of
Oxidative and Inflammatory Stress and the Risk for Atherosclerosis in
Astronauts During and After Long-duration Spaceflight (Cardio Ox) is
to determine whether biological markers of oxidative and inflammatory
stress are elevated during and after space flight and whether this
results in an increased, Ultrasound scans of the carotid and brachial
arteries will be obtained at the same time points, as well as through
5 years after landing, as an indicator of cardiovascular health.
10.04.18 Science Results for Everyone Information Pending "
Treatments for many of the above which fall within current medical science's capability.:
Malcolm Cohen, chief of the Human Information Processing Research Branch at NASA Ames:
Cohen has been spinning research subjects in something far more impressive than a carnival ride. He's been studying engineers, mountain climbers, teachers and other paid volunteers as they live for up to 22 hours in a giant, 58-foot diameter centrifuge.
"...hypergravity could be used to train athletes, providing an
environment in which exercises could be conducted with more benefit in
shorter time. People who suffer from muscle atrophy might be exposed
to it, to stress their muscles more effectively."
"...cardiovascular deconditioning, loss of muscle mass, loss of bone
density, and a host of other problems. Artificial gravity could
prevent all that -- and centrifuges are one plausible way to generate
"There are so many options for how best to implement hypergravity most
effectively," says Cohen. "Low intensity for long durations, high
intensity for short durations, short radius centrifuges ... We know a
lot, he says, but there's much more to learn."
Mineral supliments, and vitamin D.
"...some meta-analyses have found a benefit of vitamin D supplements
combined with calcium ..."
"Bisphosphonates are useful in decreasing the risk of future fractures
in those who have already sustained a fracture due to osteoporosis.
Risedronate, Etidronate, Alendronate. Teriparatide (a recombinant
parathyroid hormone) has been shown to be effective..."
There are Unknown Unknowns, that we will no doubt have to come to terms with in due time.
It is as yet unclear how effective each treatment would prove and presumably the daily regimen would depend on the specific planetary conditions and would need to be adapted for each individual person's unique physiology.
Any adaptations that the geneticists decided on could be applied on an ongoing basis, with medical science keeping up with any shortfalls.
High Gravity Exoplanets.
The Effect of increasing G:
A hard slap on the face may impose hundreds of g-s locally but may
not produce any obvious damage; a constant 15 g-s for a minute .. may
They're exposed to hypergravity, too: up to 3.2-g at launch Cohen
points out, "fluid weighs more." The heart has to change the way it
operates, pumping faster, and working harder to push the blood all the
way to the brain. This could cause (..people..) to become dizzy or
even, in extreme cases, to pass out.
The relative effect of increased gravity when standing is to increase the blood pressure in the feet and decrease it in the head.
Then when you bend over lowering the position of your head relative to the heart, the blood pressure in your head will shoot up.
Humans can cope with such changes at Earth Gravity, but as Gravity increases, the magnitude of the pressure change also increases.
We might need to make some changes to our Cardio-Vascular system, but how can we decide what?
Think of Giraffes:
Special support structures in the arteries withstand 300/180
millimeters of mercury, preventing them from bursting.As it drops its
head down to drink, specialized valves in the neck counter the
potentially explosive effects of gravity, blocking blood flowing back
into the skull. Meanwhile, a built-in pressure suit in its
extraordinarily long legs prevents fluid and blood from pooling in its
Understanding of these remarkable features is still relatively
limited. But the giraffe's physiology is a growing area of research
for evolutionary biologists and comparative physiologists looking to
understand its unique characteristics and apply that knowledge to
solving issues in human health.
What about their blood vessels:
Interestingly, the "unnaturally" high blood pressure in giraffes does
not culminate in severe vascular lesions, nor does it lead to heart
and kidney failure, whereas in humans, the same blood pressure is
exceedingly dangerous and will cause severe vascular damage.
The 2 feet long heart weighs around 12 kg and is incredibly powerful
to pump the blood all the way up its long neck and legs. Moreover,
the heart has evolved to have a small radius and thick muscle walls,
giving it high power. Also, a series of valves located in the blood
vessels that lead up the neck prevent the blood from flowing back to
the heart in between beats. The walls of the vessels also thicken
as the neck grows longer with age, to avoid rupturing under
But their legs:
The muscle and skin around the legs fit tightly, increasing the
pressure of the blood in the lower body, stopping it draining down.
The layer of tight skin on its legs not only maintains pressure but
also prevents the vessels from bursting. Furthermore, if the giraffe
were to get cuts, this thick skin and inner fascia would prevent
blood pooling and excessive bleeding.
What stops them having a Brain Haemorage when they bend down to drink:
Luckily for the giraffe, nature has provided them with a complex
pressure-regulation system that controls blood flow. In their brain,
there are blood vessels that connect to the convoluted valves or blood
sponge in the large neck veins. They are meant specifically to reduce
the blood pressure before it enters the brain. Their function is to
stop the blood from flowing backward when it dips its head. It is
called the Rete mirabile. This amazing organ collects the blood at
the skull base and regulates the blood quantity released into the
brain. It prevents the head from swelling when it bends over. And it
works in reverse as well. When the giraffe quickly lifts its head, the
organ stops blood from draining out the brain quickly, saving the
animal from fainting.
So, if we adjust our vascular systems to more closely match that of a Giraffe, we could ease our way.
As many will have heard from the news, these can help build muscle or bone marrow capacity, or of course building bone density, there are many side effects to be very wary of: infertility, hypogonadism, erectile dysfunction, amenorrhea, rhabdomyolysis - and too many others to list both physical and psychological. Possibly best used sparingly with the best medical evidence in mind only.
Some Usefull Tech:
These could help decrease wear and tear on joints and help support the intra- vertebral disks, stop colonists shrinking and ageing before their time.
"Powered exoskeleton (also known as power armor, powered armor,
powered suit, exoframe, hardsuit or exosuit) is a wearable mobile
machine that is powered by a system of electric motors, pneumatics,
levers, hydraulics, or a combination of technologies that allow for
limb movement with increased strength and endurance..."
High g is not comfortable, even with a g-suit.
In older fighter aircraft, 6 g was considered a high level, but with
modern fighters 9 g or more can be sustained structurally.
Pilots in Red Bull Air Race World Championship have worn a g-suit
called g-Race Suit since the 2009 season. The g-race suit is a liquid
(water) filled, autonomous and aircraft independent working full-body
g-protection system. It is tailor-made for each pilot and can be fine
adjusted via lacings.
The g-race suit contains four so-called "fluid muscles" which are
sealed, liquid-filled tubes. Each fluid muscle extends from the
shoulder to the ankle. Two fluid muscles – each filled with
approximately 1 litre of fluid for a total of around 4 litres (1.1 US
gal) per g-race suit – are routed vertically on the front side of the
g-race suit and two are routed vertically on the rear side of the
g-race suit. The suit weighs on average 6.5 kilograms (14 lb) in
total, and its fabric is made out of a special mix of Twaron and
Nomex. The counter pressure effect occurs instantaneously without any
time delay versus an up to two second delay before reaching full
system protection in standard pneumatic, inflatable g-suits. The race
pilot utilizes the g-race suit interactively by muscle straining and
breathing techniques to achieve an improved cardiac output and thus
(SE Ref above)
The story of John Paul Stappe who in a fluid bath survived a 46.2 g acceleration.
Though there is little experimental data except: he broke several bones in the process and it was for just a short period. It may provide comfort and relief in a moderate to high g environment.
Telepresence or Remote Handling:
The Apparatus for Remote Control of Humanoid Robots (ARCHR) is an
intuitive teleoperation system for high degree of freedom robots with
Think The big yellow thing Sigourney Weaver drove in Aliens, but remote controlled from the comfort of your warm salt-water bath.
There are things we can do to adapt ourselves which are within our capacity now, but insufficient experimental evidence is yet available to be precise about what would be needed under what circumstances - it'd perhaps be wise to park in orbit with the colonists in hypersleep and have a scientific and technical team gather more data, whilst slowly deciding what adaptations to make.