NASA Twins Study based on retired astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly continues to make headlines, especially with recent updates on the manned Mars missions which might take three years to complete.
As noted by Inc., commercial firms hoping to bring humans to other planets, starting with Mars, is and will likely not change in the near future. Elon Musk, in particular, is keen on launching more rockets to space with the ultimate goal of having a human colony on Mars. However, it might be worthwhile for these firms to consider the results of NASA’s twins study and think about its implications.
DNA Changes In Space
Scott Kelly spent almost a year in the International Space Station, and he holds the record for the longest time spent in space. Most astronauts spend only about six months in orbit, but his stay was twice as long.
Two years after Kelly arrived on Earth, NASA is ready to publish a paper detailing the changed his body went through during his stay in space. Scott’s brother Mark acted as the test subject.
Among the most striking findings is the change in Scott’s DNA. Based on in-depth studies, seven percent of his DNA changed permanently.
Weill Cornell Medicine’s Chris Mason focused on Scott Kelly’s “space genes” focusing on DNA and RNA methylation before, during, and after Scott’s space travel.
Humans On Mars
As noted by Inc., the data gathered in the NASA twins study provides unique insight into what happens to the human body when exposed to space. In just a year, seven percent of Kelly’s DNA changed. Staying longer, three years in the case of a Mars mission, means more pronounced DNA mutation.
Based on the study involving Scott Kelly, mutation is a definite thing. A seven percent change in DNA might not sound like a big deal, but it should be noted that humans and chimpanzees share 96 percent of their genes.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been pushing for Mars colonization, and the tech billionaire shows no signs of stopping plans to create a human habitat on the Red Planet. As reported by Business Insider, Musk revealed that SpaceX might start launching rockets to Mars by 2019. Based on Musk’s statement at the SXSW convention in Austin, the SpaceX CEO knows the dangers in sending the first people on a Mars mission.
“For the people who go to Mars, it’ll be far more dangerous. It kind of reads like Shackleton’s ad for Antarctic explorers. ‘Difficult, dangerous, good chance you’ll die. Excitement for those who survive.’ That kind of thing.”
Musk wants to have a human habitat on Mars, just in case something happens on Earth like another World War, although he admits, it’s unlikely to happen. The results of NASA’s twins study based on retired astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly could help potential explorers prepare for what lies ahead.