Space is a scary and an unfriendly place. There’s no gravity to keep us grounded and no friends to keep us company. Even the food isn’t a consolation as there’s just frozen goodies to pick from. If that wasn’t enough, it is full of powerful radiation that can cause harmful cancers. If all these facts aren’t good enough to lure you out of a space trip, there are somethings that you should know before you pack your bags and run away to the far off land.
Almost a year ago, American space agency NASA began a unique Twin Study. The aim was to study the impact of the space travel on the health of the astronauts. To carry out this study, NASA picked astronaut brothers– Scott and Mark Kelly. While Mark remained on the Earth, Scott travelled to space and spent 340 days on board the International Space Station (ISS). The scientists collected blood samples from the Kelly twins before and after the mission and even though the results of the analysis are still coming out, what the researchers have revealed so far is interesting enough to keep you hooked.
The analysis revealed that Scott Kelly’s telomeres, which are the caps at the end of each strand of DNA that protect our chromosomes (carriers of genetic information), grew longer during the spaceflight than his twin on the Earth. However, when he returned to the Earth, his telomeres began to shorten again.
Interestingly, telomeres are associated with longevity and they decrease in length as a person ages. The scientists believe that this could be associated with increased exercise and reduced caloric intake during Scott’s time in space. The increase in length during the spaceflight could also open avenues for the viability of the space travel in space for longer space missions like the ones to Mars.
Apart from this, analysis of also revealed inflammation soon after landing and a decline in bone formation during the second half of Scott’s mission. While the stress hormone Cortisol was low normal throughout the mission, increased levels of IGF-1 hormone indicate that the bone and muscle health and was likely impacted during the space flight.