Four astronauts spent 3 days in space. Here’s what it did to their bodies and minds.

Space changes you, even on short trips off-planet.

Four people who spent three days off Earth in September 2021 experienced physical and mental changes that included slight declines in cognitive tests, stressed immune systems and genetic changes within their cells, scientists report in a set of articles published Tuesday in the journal Nature and several other related journals.

Almost everything that changed about the astronauts returned to normal after they landed on Earth. None of the changes appear to be major precautions for future space travelers. But the results also highlighted how little medical researchers know.

Christopher Mason, professor of genomics, physiology and biophysics at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York and one of the leaders of the research, called the collection of papers and data “the most thorough examination we have never had on a crew.” » as he said during a press conference on Monday.

The four astronauts carried out a mission, known as Inspiration4, which was the first trip to orbit where none of the crew members were professional astronauts. Jared Isaacman, a billionaire entrepreneur, led the mission. Instead of bringing friends, he recruited three travelers who represented a broader section of society: Hayley Arceneaux, a physician’s assistant who survived childhood cancer; Sian Proctor, a community college professor who teaches geosciences; and Christopher Sembroski, engineer.

Inspiration4 crew members agreed to participate in medical experiments – collecting blood, urine, feces and saliva samples during their flight – and to allow the data to be cataloged in an archive online known as Space Omics and Medical Atlasor SOMA, which is publicly available.

Although the data is anonymous, this doesn’t offer much privacy as there were only four crew members on Inspiration4. “Actually, you could probably figure out who’s who,” Dr. Proctor said in an interview.

But she added: “I just think there’s more good than harm in being able to share my information and allow science to progress and learn.” »

SOMA also includes data from others who have participated in private space missions, as well as Japanese astronauts who have traveled to the International Space Station, as well as a study comparing the health of Scott Kelly, a NASA astronaut who lived on the International Space Station. for 340 days in 2015 and 2016, with his twin brother, Mark, a retired astronaut who is now a senator representing Arizona.

As more individuals purchase trips to space, it is hoped that SOMA will quickly provide more information about a wider range of people than the older white men who were selected to become astronauts in the early decades of the space age. This could lead to treatments tailored to each astronaut to combat the effects of spaceflight.

The wealth of information also allowed scientists to compare short-term effects with…

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