For the first time, an American Astronaut, Scott Kelly, spent a full year in space at the International Space Station. What changes happened to his body during that year?
One very important factor that helped NASA researchers learn about the changes that occur in space is that Scott Kelly has an identical twin who is also an astronaut! NASA studied the differences between their two bodies to learn more about the long-term effects of space.
Researchers found that Scott Kelly’s DNA was actually altered after he spent a year in space! Seven percent of his genes did not return to normal after he landed. Researchers believe that happened because of oxygen deprivation stress, which caused inflammation that resulted in the genetic changes. In space, the body is also exposed to ten times the radiation that occurs on earth.
Some of the DNA changes went back to normal, but some appear to be long-lasting. This could possibly affect the immune system and cell repair, and is important for researchers to know as they plan to have future astronauts stay for up to three years in space.