Heat Stress in Enclosed Space Biospheres and Human Cognition, Mental Health and Performance

Perhaps you’ve heard of Columbia University’s Biosphere II project at their campus in Tucson Arizona. At least some of the hypothetical greenhouse gas theory was derived from those experiments, at least some of the original components of the theory. The funny thing is that the Biosphere II project was sponsored by the Hunt Brothers, who were in the oil and gas business.

No, I’m not a conspiracy theorist, I’m not going to tell you that the oil and gas industry loves the global warming theory because it keeps their prices high because all the new competition being brought forth is not reliable energy or suitable to compete with fossil fuels which are packed with energy. So, I’m not going to say that here. Rather, I would like to speak to the knowledge gained from those experiments that had to do with heat stress.

You see, I have some close friends that live in New Jersey and they have greenhouses and they grow specialty plants for commercial real estate customers. In the summertime it’s hot and sweaty in New Jersey, but go inside one of those greenhouses and the amount of thermal stress makes you want to leave pretty quickly, that or go naked. Seriously, it’s very hard to deal with, it’s very uncomfortable.

Now then, what if we are to create an enclosed and encapsulated biosphere in a space colony on another planet or on the moon? What about the heat stress, we are going to have to have sophisticated air-conditioning systems, it will matter. We want to keep the temperature at a comfortable level, but we will also wish to help the human immune system by slowing down the rate of growth of bacteria and other things that find their way into the colony, and the best way to do that is to keep the temperature lower, this is why hospitals often have a chill factor.

In August of 2004 there was an interesting article put out by NASA (NASA/TM – 2004-212824) titled; “Stress, Cognition, and Human Performance: A Literature Review and Conceptual Framework,” by Mark A. Staal of Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California, which speaks to many of the issues concerning cognitive performance in various conditions, and there are several sections on “heat stress” and it appears that this is going to be a real issue for space colonies, orbiting space stations, and long-term space flight. Humans perform best, and live longest in temperatures of 70-79 degrees Fahrenheit and with a low humidity.

It takes energy to create both air-conditioning, or heat and that may not always be in abundant supply despite the constant need for the enclosed atmospheric biosphere. Here are some other issues were going to have to consider;


Mental Health

High-end Cognition and Performance

If the temperature is too cold, and the body temperatures are not kept at the proper rate, or there is not enough food for their bodies to have the energy to keep themselves warm, we may find ourselves with depression in a space colony, and that can lead to anxiety, personality challenges, mental health issues, and it could even affect the performance when doing high-intensity mental tasks. We need to get the temperature exactly correct. Indeed I hope you will please consider all this and think on it.