Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Space Genes

Scott and Mark Kelly are identical twin brothers — at least, they were until Scott spent a year living in space.

When Scott Kelly returned to Earth after a 340-day voyage aboard the International Space Station (ISS) two years ago, he was 2 inches taller than he'd been when he left. His body mass had decreased, his gut bacteria were completely different, and — according to preliminary findings from NASA researchers — his genetic code had changed significantly. (Interestingly, Scott Kelly has since shrunk back down to his initial prespaceflight height.)

A new NASA statement suggests the physical and mental stresses of Scott Kelly's year in orbit may have activated hundreds of "space genes" that altered the astronaut's immune system, bone formation, eyesight and other bodily processes. While most of these genetic changes reverted to normal following Scott Kelly's return to Earth, about 7 percent of the astronaut's genetic code remained altered — and it may stay that way permanently.
Being in space is not good for you.

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

This is a huge part of why we're never getting off this rock. The closest star system is over a century away, even assuming as yet totally hypothetical methods of propulsion.

We can't stay in space for even a single year without our bodies starting to fail. Managing one hundred years or more is absolutely not going to work.

And that's before we even consider the fact that such a long mission would necessitate pre-planned birth and childrearing in space, as well as a century of systems maintenance, environmental control, food production, and waste management, without significant mishap, and without psychological breakdown.

In theory we might get around a lot of those problems with cryogenics and robotics, but even then we will still be going in totally ignorant of what effects microgravity and cosmic radiation might have on cryogenically frozen beings over the course of a hundred years or more, AND we're presupposing development of a still theoretical technology that has never actually been proven potentially viable, and may never in fact end up being developed successfully.