The Atlantic

What a Year in Space Did to Scott Kelly

An unprecedented and illuminating study monitored identical twins, one in space and one on Earth.
Source: ROBERT MARKOWITZ / AFP / Getty / The Atlantic

In the debate over whether human beings should set off to other worlds beyond Earth, one of the most compelling cons is this: Our bodies don’t like it.

Few people know this better than Scott Kelly, the NASA astronaut who spent nearly a year on the International Space Station from 2015 to 2016. Like other astronauts, Kelly served as a test subject in the study of space travel’s effects on the human body. Unlike other astronauts, Kelly has an identical twin, Mark, an astronaut himself. This gave researchers an uncommon opportunity to monitor the two brothers as they lived in two very different environments—one on Earth and the other 250 miles above it.

According to their results, Thursday in, Scott experienced a number of changes that Mark did not. Most of those changes went away after Scott returned to Earth. The long stint in space, the researchers say, produced some unexpected changes—but did not lead to any clinically significant health differences.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic5 min readScience
The Worst Day in Earth’s History Contains an Ominous Warning
One of the planet’s most dramatic extinctions was caused in part by ocean acidification, which has become a problem in our own era.
The Atlantic5 min readFashion & Beauty
How Jeans Got Weird
It’s hard to imagine how a person could be better at wearing jeans than Rihanna. While the pop star is practically worshiped in fashion circles for her wardrobe’s endless variety, the one thing she clothes herself in nearly constantly is denim. Her r
The Atlantic5 min readPolitics
Parasite And The Curse Of Closeness
Bong Joon-ho’s film depicts a class system in which the most profound harms result from the relationships of interdependence between rich and poor.