Astronaut Scott Kelly’s DNA was irrevocably altered by his time in space, according to NASA.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has discovered that Scott Kelly and his identical twin Mark are not so identical anymore. A notable 7% difference in the former’s DNA from his time spent aboard the ISS was noted in the 2018 Investigator’s Workshop for NASA’s Human Research Program.
While approximately 93% of Scott Kelly’s genetic expression was normal once he was back on terra firma, the rest has retained its alteration. Problems like hypoxia — a condition in which the cells in his tissue lack the proper amount of oxygen — and mitochondrial damage were also investigated, along with changes to his collagen, blood clotting ability, and bone formation. Additionally, Kelly’s immune system responded with hyperactivity to extended time in space.
The ramifications are huge for potential long-term voyages, like Elon Musk’s now-famous vision for Martian exploration. On such a trip, astronauts would easily triple the time that anyone has spent in space thus far. These findings, as well as continued research into ways to prevent or repair the damage, stand at the forefront of concerns with leaving our terrestrial home.
According to NASA, the Human Research Program responsible for this “supports innovative, scientific human research by funding more than 300 research grants to respected universities, hospitals, and NASA centers to over 200 researchers in more than 30 states.” Only time will tell how one of the most adaptable species on the planet will adapt to being off of it.