Unlike Earth, Space is a whole different ball game. The environment there is dangerous and astronauts are usually exposed to harmful radiation that could increase their probability to contract cancer. These space travelers also have to weather the extreme temperatures of space
Other than that, astronauts don’t have the luxury of eating home cooked meals. Instead, they have to make do with freeze-dried food.
To ensure that the muscles and bones don’t waste away, astronauts have to regularly exercise while in space. They usually follow a specially curated high-tempo work schedule to ensure that they are able to exhaustively cover all work out areas.
Having pointed this out, you’re probably wondering why we haven’t answered the elephant in the room. What really happens to your body in space? What are the risks? In a bid to enlighten you on the topic, it’s time to delve into the specifics.
After spending a year aboard the International Space Station, about twice the time normal astronauts spend up in space, astronaut Scott Kelly made his way back to earth in March 2016.
The results from this Twin Study were simply mind-numbing. Scientists have so far compared and integrated data samples from both Mark and Scott over the course of the year.
From their analysis, they’ve been able to take a closer peek at what happens to the human body at the molecular level. In so doing, they’ve been able to get a clear picture of just how space affects the human body while out in space.
Since the study involved identical twins with a similar genome, it was relatively easy for them to ascertain the differences that arose between the twins thanks to external influences.
So far, they’ve already released both preliminary and fully integrated results. Here’s what we know for sure so far.
During Scott’s time in space, scientists conducted cognition studies on both twins as often as ten different tests.
Remarkably, scientists noticed that during Scott’s yearlong mission aboard the ISS, his cognitive capabilities were never impaired. It’s only right when he made his way back to Earth that he experienced some fogginess. Tests conducted on him once he landed showed that he had a considerable drop in speed and accuracy of cognition.
While this is their current stance on the matter, further studies need to be conducted in order to ascertain how exactly cognition is affected.
Another probable cause for the slowdown of brain functionality could also be the fact that Scot had a very intense post flight schedule. As a coping mechanism, scientists believe that his cognitive abilities could have taken a hit.
Researchers conducted inflammation tests on both brothers while Scott was lodge in space. In their findings, they noted that Scott had altered levels of lipid panel taken in space. This indicated that there was elevated inflammation in the body.
After landing, scientists noted that some faction of Scott’s cytokines spiked immediately he was back on Earth. The same levels remained high for the first 6 months after he was back.
Given the fact that inflammation usually results in insulin resistance, Scott’s proteins were noted to considerably increase as a countermeasure to fight the insulin resistance that’s closely linked to inflammation.
The absence of gravity means that your bones and muscles aren’t under as much strain as normal. This usually results in astronauts losing as much as 5% of their muscle mass weekly. The most severely affected regions are those which support posture.
Once astronauts get back to earth, it’s relatively easy for them to recover their muscle mass. That said, it’s a bit trickier for them to rehabilitate the loss of bone density. There are actually zero guarantees that rehabilitation will assist in the recovery of bone loss.
To avert these conditions, scientists are continually working to develop space-friendly exercise equipment and nutrition regimens that will lower the occurrence of such events going forward.
During his year-long stint in space, Scott’s genes mutated some way. Scientists were able to note changes in his RNA and DNA while using whole-genome sequencing.
Shortly after landing, Scott was discovered to have cell-free DNA and RNA flowing through his bloodstream. Scientists believe that these changes were brought about thanks to the stresses of space travel. More specifically, they noticed changes in:
About 93% of Scott’s genes got back to normal after he landed. Scientists believe that the remainder stayed unchanged because of long term changes in genes.
Notably, the body usually takes some time to readjust to gravity after landing. Scientists observed that Scott stumbled for a while because his sense of orientation was messed up by zero gravity effects.
Now, it is your turn to know about NASA. At AstroReality, we’ve just launched our NASA Notebook for you to jot down your creative ideas. This Augmented Reality powered notebook allows you to fill the pages of with your own explorations. Available in two colors – Titanium Grey and Glacier White, you can enjoy the thrill of journaling history as it happens.