NASA Astronaut’s Health Does Change While In Orbit, But Researchers Disagree About Level Of Risk
Scientists studying the research on the Kelly brothers following Scott's 340 days in orbit had mixed opinions about the the biomedical and genetic changes brought on by long-term space travel. “What this really does is open a door to the kind of analysis you could never do before that’s going to be important for astronauts when they go on long-duration space flight to Mars and they’re going to have to be progressively independent from the resources that are on the ground,” said Andrew Feinberg, a lead investigator on the Twins Study.
The New York Times:
Scott Kelly Spent A Year In Orbit. His Body Is Not Quite The Same.
For 340 days, Scott Kelly circled the Earth aboard the International Space Station, gathering data about himself. He drew blood from his arms. He saved his urine. He played computer games to test his memory and reaction speed. He measured the shape of his eyes. Two hundred and forty miles below, Mr. Kelly’s twin brother, Mark, who also served as an astronaut, carried out identical tests. Now, a comparison of these two men has provided a unique opportunity to learn what happens to the human body in space — down to the molecular level. (Zimmer, 4/11)
The Washington Post:
NASA Kelly Twin Astronauts Study Shows Health Risks Of Space Travel
The researchers, echoing what NASA has suggested previously, said the twins study turned up no showstoppers — no shocking health consequences that would surely prevent a human mission to Mars or similar long-duration mission. But the report shows anew that the human body is adapted for life on the surface of Earth and goes haywire in zero gravity. One of the most dramatic findings concerned epigenetics — how genes are turned on or off to produce proteins. (Contrary to some breathless headlines, Scott Kelly didn’t undergo a space-induced change in his genetic code.) Gene expression changed in both Kellys during the study but in significantly different ways. The study found that more than 90 percent of Scott Kelly’s gene expression changes reverted to normal when he returned to the surface. (Achenbach, 4/11)
The Wall Street Journal:
Astronauts Can Withstand Longer Space Trips, New Study Of Twins Finds
Astronauts may be better able to withstand long missions to the Moon and even Mars than previously realized, lifting what had loomed as a barrier to space exploration, a unique study of twin astronauts revealed. The longer people stay in space the more their vital signs change in small but significant ways, but there aren’t long-term health consequences, the study found. (Hotz, 4/11)