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"Science fiction operates a little bit like science itself, in principle. You've got thousands of people exploring ideas, putting forth their own hypotheses. Most of them are dead wrong; a few stand the test of time; everything looks kind of quaint in hind"
- Peter Watts

Space Weakness  
  Early description of what happens to the human body in zero gravity.  

This is an early description of the loss of muscle mass that takes place over time in zero gravity.

"I guess so," said Joe. He added ruefully, "It hurts to nod, and I think it would hurt worse to shake my head. What's the matter with me, Mike? I didn't get banged up in the landing!"

"You got banged up before you landed," said Mike. "Worse than that, you spent better than six weeks out of gravity, where in an average day you took less actual exercise than a guy in bed with two broken legs!"

Joe eased himself back into his chair. He felt about 600 years old. Somebody poked a head into view and withdrew it. Joe lifted his arm and regarded it.

"Weighty! I guess you're right, Mike."

"I know I'm right!" said Mike. "If you spent six weeks in bed you'd expect to feel wobbly when you tried to walk. Up on the Platform you didn't even use energy to stand up! We didn't realize it, but we were living like invalids! We'll get our strength back, but next time we'll take measures. Huh!

Take a trip to Mars in free fall, and by the time a guy got there his muscles'd be so flabby he couldn't stand up in half-gravity! Something's got to be done about that, Joe!"

Joe said somberly, "Something's got to be done about space ships before that comes up again!"

From Space Tug, by Murray Leinster.
Published by Not known in 1953
Additional resources -

Can anyone think of an earlier reference?

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