Everyone knows that when it comes to buying a life insurance policy, high risk jobs such as acting, working on an oil rig or being an aircraft pilot will all push up the price quite considerably. What, then, does this mean for astronauts – those heroes among us who choose to get blasted into the atmosphere in a matter of seconds? Let’s have a look at the risks.
I suppose we must at first, at least, consider the lift-off element of space travel. Humans are physically limited by the amounts of G-forces they can endure and it would be possible (but very slow) to reach space whilst undergoing just one G, therefore it is usual for lift-off to push to between five and seven Gs with the aim of reaching space in just eight minutes. It is no surprise then that one of the biggest space fatalities happened during the take-off of space shuttle Challenger in 1986.
Interestingly, once in orbit, they are moving just as fast. But risks for the astronauts actually get worse when one considers the amount of radiation in space. Not only can cosmic radiation have an effect on blood marrow, whilst weakening the immune system and increasing the risk of infection – it can also have an affect on the medicines taken along. After recent reports, NASA are currently studying the damage that radiation can do to on-board pharmaceutics. Testers have found a “significant degradation” in certain medicines including Augmentin and Bactrim.
The affect of weightlessness is also not without adverse effects – despite it seeming to be one of the most alluring factors of space travel. Tests have shown that astronauts who have experienced weightlessness for significant amounts of time have been known to develop loss of bone density, a lacking in muscle strength and endurance, postural instability and aerobic capacity. It is suggested that if an astronaut was to ever travel to Mars, his/her endured bone mass loss due to weightlessness would mean upon his arrival he or she would simply collapse.
So if space travel is so dangerous, how much does life insurance cost for astronauts? Insurance specialist Ed Hinerman claims that a person who becomes an astronaut will need to be reassessed and will most probably have to start paying a flat extra on every thousand pounds of his policy. He states that if one was to pay £2,000 a year, an astronaut may have to pay over £16,000 per year flat rate. It must really be worth it.
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