NASA Twins Study Provides New Insight Into How Space Travel Affects Human Health

Singularity Hub | April 27, 2019 | By Shelly Fan

Thanks to 18 years of humans continuously working on the International Space Station (ISS), we already have a basic idea of what happens to our Earth-grown bodies in zero gravity. Our hearts morph in shape, lowering the amount of oxygen the blood can absorb and carry. Our bones and muscles wither without gravitational challenge. Fluids rush towards our heads, increasing pressure in the eyes.

Many of these symptoms seem to worsen the longer humans remain in space. Yet with space missions often only lasting six months, how our bodies and minds adapt to long-term space flight—that is, if we can at all—remains a complete mystery.

Until now. This week, an ambitious collaboration organized by NASA of over 80 scientists across ten teams published the most comprehensive study yet of what happens to humans in space—and upon return to our pale blue dot.

The news is good. Overall, the data “demonstrated on the molecular level the resilience and robustness of how one human body adapted to the spaceflight environment,” said Dr. Jenn Fogarty, chief scientist of the NASA Human Research Program. “This study was a stepping stone to future biological space research focusing on molecular changes and how they may predict health and performance of astronauts.”