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How does a short trip to space impact the human body?

FILE - Jared Isaacman, left, and Hayley Arceneaux prepare to head to launchpad 39A for a launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
FILE - Jared Isaacman, left, and Hayley Arceneaux prepare to head to launchpad 39A for a launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Copyright John Raoux/AP Photo
Copyright John Raoux/AP Photo
By Euronews with AP
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A short trip to space may cause some of the same changes as long-term space missions, new research shows.


Short-term space travel causes similar changes to the body as those for astronauts who spend months in orbit, according to new research.

Most of the changes for these travellers, however, reverse within months of them coming back to Earth.

"This is the first time we've had a cell-by-cell examination of a crew when they go into space, and look at T cells, B cells, all the different components of the immune system. We do this for patients at the hospital and patients in research," said Chris Mason, a professor of physiology and biophysics at Weill Medical College of Cornell University in the United States.

"But this is the first time we really had a cellular, high granularity view of what happens to the body in space".

The research looked at four space tourists that were part of the Inspriation4 SpaceX three-day flight in 2021, who had biological samples collected from them.

Researchers compared this to information from previous flights, such as the NASA Twins Study.

"We found that, for example, telomeres get a little longer in space, which – these are the kind of, the caps at the end of your chromosomes that keep your DNA intact," said Mason.

"We found that this is very much like what we see for longer missions, but just not as dramatic," he said.

"We see stress of the body for the immune system being activated like T cells for example, in the body. And we also see just general stress on the body from the flight. But within a few months, 95 per cent of them all go back to their baseline levels," he added.

Collection of studies on health in space

The research was part of a series of studies published in Nature journals on the health effects of space travel.

Other studies published in the collection on Tuesday looked at the impact of spaceflight on the skin, kidneys, and immune system.

A study led by University College London researchers, for instance, found that kidney structure and function are altered by spaceflight.

The study used data from space missions involving humans and mice, as well as space simulations involving mice and rats.

Seven simulations involved mice being exposed to radiation at levels equivalent to 1.5 and 2.5-year Mars missions.

Dr Keith Siew, first author of the study, said that while they know there's an increase in health issues such as kidney stones on space flights, they did not know what could happen on longer flights such as to Mars.

"If we don’t develop new ways to protect the kidneys, I’d say that while an astronaut could make it to Mars they might need dialysis on the way back," Siew said.

"We know that the kidneys are late to show signs of radiation damage; by the time this becomes apparent it’s probably too late to prevent failure, which would be catastrophic for the mission’s chances of success".

Video editor • Roselyne Min

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