How Does Space Affect Your Body?
When American astronaut Scott Kelly went into space last March, he went to learn more about space, but now that he’s back, he’s the main experiment.
Science has long been fascinated with the strange and mysterious effects that outer space has on living organisms and especially human beings. Aside from the air we breathe and the food we eat, what conditions on Earth make life so favorable, and what does removing ourselves from these resources and entering the vacuum of space do to our minds and bodies?
Scott Kelly made the perfect test because he has a twin brother, former astronaut Mark Kelly, who remained on Earth to serve as a a control. Now that Scott’s time in space is through, the changes have turned out to be fascinating.
Here’s what we’ve learned after Scott Kelly’s record-breaking year in space.
Given the absence of gravity, astronauts experience a wide array of changes due to weightlessness. One of the biggest differences can be seen in their height.
After spending 340 days in space, Scott Kelly gained two inches. That may make him the taller Kelly twin, but no gravity comes with its downsides, too.
Weightlessness also changes where and how the body distributes its resources.
Most affected are astronauts’ bones and muscles, especially the heart. Each month, astronauts can lose up to 1-2% of bone tissue, mainly from their extremities and hips, such as in the case of osteoporosis. A calcium-rich diet helps prevent these nasty effects.
In as few as five to eleven days, astronauts can also lose 20% of their muscle mass, since their bodies are not constantly working against the forces of gravity. Luckily, space stations are equipped with exercise machines, and on the ISS astronauts spend hours each day working out to maintain muscles and healthy blood flow.
According to Jeremy Curtis of the UK Space Agency, “The muscle loss is the equivalent of a 20-year-old turning into a 60-year-old over a period of three months.”