NASA along with other space agencies including ESA send their astronauts in outer space to conduct several experiments under microgravity environment. Astronauts live on International Space Station (ISS) that revolves nearly 400 km above Earth. They conduct their experiments on ISS including growing vegetables, etc. However, long-term exposure to zero gravity environment can cause several weird changes to astronaut’s body.
In order to find the effect of microgravity environment, the US space agency NASA had conducted a Twin Study program where they had sent astronaut Scott Kelly on International Space Station for a duration of a year and later scientists compared the changes occurred in the body of Scott Kelly with his twin brother Mark Kelly who lived on Earth.
Scientists were stunned to find that long-term exposure to microgravity environment can cause serious changes in DNA. The change in genetic makeup of Kelly’s DNA has been associated with striking nutrient shifts, increased inflammation, and oxygen deprivation stress which causes a significant change in the DNA. As per report said, any change in DNA due to space travel reverts to its original state within hours of landing and the same phenomenon was seen in Kelly’s DNA, however, 7% of his DNA didn’t revert signifying that it has been permanently altered. Telomeres, the end caps of chromosomes in the DNA usually shortens when someone ages but in case of Kelly, the telomeres got elongated and didn’t restore even after months of landing on the Earth.
Kelly Scott who has been shuttling to and fro the International Space Station for over a decade and he said that space travel has its own risks. When any astronaut needs medical help, they have to depend on telemedicine for help as it is impossible to rush to a hospital in such cases. NASA conducted a thorough and detailed analysis on Kelly which also revealed the effects of carbon dioxide poisoning, microgravity and the environment of the space. Based on the bits of information available with respect to NASA Twins Study, space brings substantial changes in the DNA makeup when it compared the DNA sample of Kelly and his brother Mark.
Apart from changes in DNA, below are some weird changes that take place to your body in space:-
- Since gravity is no longer active, your body elongates and height increases by a quarter of an inch.
- Your body fluid starts shifting to your head as no force is acting downwards to pull the fluid towards your legs.
- Since more fluid is moving towards the face, your face looks puffier.
- It has been found that zero gravity environment hampers vision as fluid pressure changes in the brain.
- Lack of exercise in deep space can also lead to a decline in bone density by 12 percent.
- Weightlessness makes your muscle redundant. Thus, you might suffer shrinking of muscle in space which is why exercising regularly is part of astronaut’s daily routine.
- Microgravity environment is weird which makes you sleep deprived.
- Study reveals that long term exposure to space also increases cancer risk
Moving further, the research which will be published in Spring 2018 studied 10 different aspects of DNA that are Biochemical, Vasculature, Telomeres, Metabolomic, Immune, Proteomic, DNA/RNA, Cognition, and Microbiome. NASA will publish the research paper later this year. The aim for such a study is to learn the success of manned missions to Mars slated to launch in 2030s as well as learning more about how humans could adapt to live in space for an extending period of time assuming that the travel time from Earth to Mars and return would take three years to complete which is three times more than what Scott stayed in the space and that too at low-earth orbit.