NASA is using twins and worms to examine aging in space
Watch This Space
Tonight, NASA is conducting terrifying experiments to work out whether space travel will kill us all.
How does the human body survive in space?
Would your space twin outlive you?
And what's the deal with the ending to Interstellar?
I'm Claire Riley.
Welcome to Watch This Space.
From the CNET studios in Sydney, this is your weekly guide to everything on Earth you need to know about space.
And tonight's headlines, you're old and you're going to die.
But in good news, if you travel to space, you might live a fraction longer.
Side effects of living longer may include changed gastrointestinal bacteria, muscle and bone loss, and the crippling knowledge of what lies in the vast emptiness of the black abyss.
As we start to think long term about living in space researchers want to know what effects space life has on the human body.
And to conduct their tests NASA is using the most terrifying thing known to human kind twins.
Here to explain our cnet's twin news correspondents and editors at large Miley and Kiley Riley.
She's totally right.
So NASA did this like twins study to like Study twins, and work out what the effects of Space Travel will be on two like totally identical people.
What were their names, something really lame like Mack and Scott, whatever.
So Scott Kelly lived in space for a year.
And he got to Instagram from the International Space Station.
But then his brother, Mark, who's got this total barista mustache, real Tom Selleck vibe?
He had to stay back home.
Ugh, what a bummer.
It was like Scott was the Kim and Mark was the Khloe.
Anyway, so when he comes back, they do all these tests and stuff.
And it turns out that Scott The cool space twin has like totally changed.
It's got like, more inflammation and like less burn formation, whatever.
And then they found these changes in his chromosomes.
That meant he was gonna totally live forever.
Yeah thanks guys that's mostly right.
NASA conducted tests on the twins telomeres.
That's the little part at the end of each chromosome in our DNA.
The idea was that Mark and Scott should be pretty similar at the molecular level.
Twins am I right?
According to NASA telomeres get shorter as we age.
But after just one year in space, Scott Kelly is telling me that on his white blood cells actually increased in length.
That microscopic change may mean that he extended his life span.
That is quite literally some spaceage ****.
After Scott returned to Earth, NASA also revealed that while 93% of his genes returned to normal after landing, the remaining 7% pointed to, quote, Longer term changes in genes, relating to things like his immune system, DNA repair, and bone formation.
7% isn't a huge difference, but just like when your smug brother got back from his first trip around Europe, Scott will be able to tell Mark that spaceflight literally changed him.
So, space changes your bones your DNA and your age.
And if my reading of that Wikipedia article on Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity and the Twin Paradox is correct, then Scott Kelly is a Time Lord who is both older and younger than his twin brother.
I think, is that how interstellar works?
Can someone just explain, and just tell it to me?
I just don't understand it.
What we do know is that because of an effect time time dilation, astronauts who spend time in space actually less than people on Earth.
After six months on the International Space Station, for example, you'll be 0.0007 seconds younger than your chump friends here on Earth.
When I want to care for my skin, only space travel will do.
The ISS, because you're worth it.
But it's not just Twins who are teaching us about edging in space, we're also learning a thing or two from worms, space worms!
Researchers send worms to space for all sorts of reasons.
For a holiday to put them in tinny space helmets.
But most importantly, to track how their cells, genes, and muscles change after traveling to space.
In September 2018 UK scientists sent hundreds of space worms up to the ISS to study how space flight contributes to muscle loss to learn more about longterm human space travel.
Sorry to all those worms who are no doubt getting small for next summer.
But according to tests at the ISS astronaughts can lose up to 40% of their muscle mass after just six months in space.
And it's not just muscle loss that astronaughts have to contend with.
There's the psychological effects of living in isolation and confined spaces with the same people for months on end.
There's the grim diet of freeze-dried foods.
And without gravity, astronauts living that #weightless life experience bone density loss of 1% per month.
If we want to live long term in space, or do three-year missions to Mars, we're gonna have to work on that if we don't want our astronauts to be withered husks of humanity floating around the great void of space.
So what does this mean for our totally real twins here in the Watch This Space Studio?
Why don't we check in?
So I lived in space and had to eat freeze-dried foods that were totally not keto vegan and watch my bones disappear.
I mean, yeah, I'm still like young and datable, but my skeleton is like a Jungle Jim.
Life in space was hard.
You don't know how lucky to had it.
I was forced to live here on Earth with its climate change and its nuclear fallout, and I'm now old and [UNKNOWN] then I might as well be dead.
So there you have it.
Space might stop you from aging but you're probably still die while you're up there.
All right, that's it for this week's episode of What This Space.
If you'd enjoyed that program, then make sure you click like on your remote and subscribe for more space news as it happens.
I'm Kylie [UNKNOWN] I'm Claire Wright from CNet.
Good night and Godspeed.
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