340 days in orbit of the Earth
Monday, 04 July 2022 15:04

"340 days in orbit of Earth" (USA; March 27, 2015 - March 2, 2016) - NASA project to study the influence of outer space on the human body. During the preparation of the project, two twin astronauts Mark Kelly and Scott Kelly were selected, who are genetically identical.

By the conditions of the space experiment, one of the brothers (Scott Kelly) agreed to stay in orbit for 340 days and perform all the necessary biological measurements (urine, blood tests, etc.), at the same time his brother (Mark Kelly) was on Earth and also performed the same biological tests.

On March 27, 2015, the rocket "Soyuz-FG" was successfully launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan with a crew of three on board - Scott Kelly, Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalko. On the night of March 28, 2015, a successful docking and transfer of the crew to the ISS took place.

During living on the ISS, the indicators of both brothers were compared for a detailed study of the molecular biological processes occurring in the human body.

At the end of the flight, NASA scientists announced that the body of 55-year-old Scott Kelly has undergone a huge number of changes during his stay in orbit. The DNA mutated in some of his cells. His immune system experienced many reactions to weightlessness. Its microbiome was replenished with new types of bacteria. Many of these biological changes seemed harmless, disappearing after his return to Earth. But some of them, including genetic mutations, did not turned back even after his return, which caused and continues to cause concern among scientists. The scientists found that, in many ways, Mr. Scott Kelly had changed about the same as the astronauts who had been on the space station for just six months. The rate of biological change has slowed, suggesting that a 6-month-old human body in zero gravity may be reaching a new molecular equilibrium in space.

After the return of Mr. Kelly to Earth on March 2, 2016, it turned out that he became slightly taller than his brother Mark - by 1.5 inches or 4 cm. His changes were within the normal range. Also important was that his body was showing signs of extreme stress and his immune system was working at full capacity. Despite this shock, Mr. Kelly's body has largely returned to a calm state. Severe stress and a fully "turned on" immune system could mean that he caught a small viral infection before landing.

Mr. Kelly's bizarre telomere elongation (the ends of chromosomes) disappeared after less than 48 hours on Earth. 180 days after he returned, 8.7 percent of his genes were still behaving in an altered way. As scientists have discovered, the set of genetic mutations received by Mr. Kelly in space is a permanent change. "We see them appear in flight and then persist," Dr. Mason said.

Sometimes radiation causes a type of mutation that makes cells prone to even more mutations as they divide. Eventually, cells can begin to grow uncontrollably - "taking steps towards cancer," Dr. Bailey said.

These results make scientists and astronauts rethink the serious risks of a trip to Mars, even if it lasts for what seems like a short period of time - just one year. Dr. Mason calculated that a mission to Mars would expose the would-be astronaut to eight times the amount of radiation that Mr. Kelly experienced. After returning home from Mars, astronauts can be exposed to serious cancers.

NASA scientists continue to analyze all the results to help plan the next missions to the ISS and possible flights to neighboring planets.

The results of the Kelly brothers' mission help unravel mysteries that are still unsolved. Unraveling the processes that take place in Mr. Kelly's telomeres may shed light on earthly ordinary things - aging and the diseases that it brings. “When we figure out how and why this happens, it will be important both for astronauts and for us ordinary earthlings,” Dr. Bailey said.