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On March 1, 2016, NASA announced that astronaut Scott Kelly was en route back to Earth after spending 340 days in space. Kelly was launched into space with two Russian colleagues to the International Space Station (ISS) on March 27, 2015. During the past year, Kelly and his colleagues conducted various tests to further assist NASA in the future possibilities of sending astronauts to Mars. One test that Kelly was especially interested in was if he could prove that the body grows after his “Year in Space” journey.
Kelly and his colleagues traveled 144 million miles through space over the course of 11 months. They orbited the globe 5,440 times. This was not the first time Kelly experienced life in space. Over four missions, he has spent a total of 520 days in space, but the likelihood of him having this experience again is low for the 52-year-old astronaut. He showcased his Year in Space mission via social media by posting over 1,000 pictures of his views from the ISS, catching the attention of all humans back home, including President Barack Obama. The astronaut has 1 million followers on Twitter and Instagram as well.
Kelly landed on the earth’s surface at approximately 11:30 p.m. EST, on March 1, 2016, in the Kazakhstan Desert. After a Year in Space, Kelly has proven that the body grows. While it was noted that he and his twin brother, Mark, were the same height a year ago, it was confirmed by NASA that he grew two inches during his mission. Mark Kelly, a retired astronaut, spent 54 days in space over the course of four missions. The brothers are the only recorded siblings to experience space travel.
One of the tests that will be conducted upon Kelly’s arrival at the Ellington Field in Houston, Texas, will be how the body was affected during a prolonged spaceflight. Comparing the brothers will further assist researchers in identifying genetic changes. The National Space Biomedical Research Institute and other NASA researchers will analyze the changes that may have occurred in Kelly’s bones, muscles, face, legs, and his heart.
Astronauts who forego space travel see changes in their bone structure due to the significant decrease in load bearing. The bones become weak and brittle because of the release of calcium. This also increases the risks of kidney stones appearing and bone fractures occurring.
Since there is no gravity in space, astronauts may suffer from weak muscles. There is less work for the back and the legs, therefore, resulting in possible fall-related accidents. Blood flow is also affected in space, with decreased blood flow in the lower extremities of the body and increased flow in the upper part. Astronauts become accustomed to the lack of gravity. When they return to Earth, at times, an individual may struggle with walking and overall balancing.
The heart is affected because there have been escalated concerns that relate to space radiation. This radiation could lead to coronary heart disease, in addition to the possibilities of disturbing endothelial cells and the thinning of blood vessel lining.
Kelly was able to prove that the body grows after spending a year in space, because of gravity. The human body is ultimately affected by being around gravity or being in an environment where it does not exist. The spinal discs are compressed when an individual is on Earth. Kelly, who was in space for nearly a year, experienced his spine lengthening over that period of time. The lack of gravity caused the compression of his spinal discs to dissipate and the discs moved apart, which ultimately caused him to grow two inches.
By Tricia Manalansan
Edited by Leigh Haugh
CNBC: NASA’s Scott Kelly Grew 2 Inches: The Body After a Year in Space
Fox News: Scott Kelly: Year in space paves the way for even longer missions
Washington Post: ‘Touchdown!’ Scott Kelly returns to Earth with a fist-pump and a cult following.
Featured and Top Article Image Courtesy of NASA HQ PHOTO’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Middle Inline Image Courtesy of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Bottom Inline Image Courtesy of NASA HQ PHOTO’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License