Space is not really the place - for your body, anyway. Zero gravity has a myriad of effects on your body. It affects everything from your mind to your circulation, and changes your nervous system and bones... at least until you return to Earth.
If you've ever had the dream of becoming an astronaut, you can expect more changes than you actually bargained for, primarily due to weightlessness - and while it's weird, it's pretty much par for the course. The changes are not super unusual, nor are they part of a worse case scenario. They are, however, sometimes unexplainable, which is NASA and other space agencies are forever testing and studying the effects of outer space on the human body, as mankind hopes to extend its stay in our universe and beyond in the coming years.
To find out what happens to your body while you live your life in orbit read on - we guarantee these changes are not covered in sci-fi movies.
Space Travel Causes Genes To Switch On And Off
Astronaut Scott Kelly has a twin brother, Mark (also an astronaut, but retired,) that NASA used as a comparison in its "Twin Study" to gauge how space affects the human body.
While Mark remained on Earth, Scott spent almost a year living on the International Space Station. When he came back, NASA studied the twins and found that Scott's time in space genes to turn "on and off" (the process is called methylation).
Dr. Chris Mason of Weill Cornell Medicine and a principal researcher in the study said, "We really see an explosion, like fireworks taking off, as soon as the human body gets into space. With this study, we’ve seen thousands and thousands of genes change how they are turned on and turned off. This happens as soon as an astronaut gets into space, and some of the activity persists temporarily upon return to Earth."
You Lose Bone Strength Pretty Quickly
While in space, astronauts lose at least 14% of their bone strength and have an increased risk of fractures or breakage later in life. Some astronauts drop a whopping 30% of their bone mass, which puts them - even though they are they are at their physical peak - on par with postmenopausal women who suffer from osteoporosis. Why? Earth's gravity causes a "mechanical load" which, in turn, helps bones maintain the proper density in which to support the body. In space, that simply doesn't exist.
Your Muscles Start To Atrophy
Muscles help us maneuver ourselves on Earth in a "power play" against gravity. Again, with gravity, the muscles have nothing to work against, and in space, the longer you're out there, the less they have to do. They weaken by about 20%, which increases the longer they're up in space. Astronauts combat this with exercise, by strapping themselves down with weights as they ride stationary bikes, or using specialized equipment uniquely designed for a weightless environment. This also helps with bone loss and mental health. In space, astronauts exercise about two hours a day.
Your Body Is Exposed To A LOT Of Radiation In Space
In space, there is no ozone layer serving as protection against harmful rays. Astronauts are significantly more exposed to radiation, which can get to core the space traveler's DNA. Radiation exposure in the short term, as we already know, can lead to nausea, vomiting, and bloody diarrhea. In the longer term, it can be fatal, with cancer being the most prevalent threat. Sterility is also a possibility, as is gene mutation, which can be passed down through generations. While in space, astronauts are monitored 24/7 by the Space Radiation Analysis Group (SRAG) from Mission Control in Houston. The group makes sure that their exposure to radiation doesn't exceed acceptable levels.