NASA Reveals How Living in Space for a Year Affected Scott Kelly’s Poop

NASA, Getty Images
NASA, Getty Images

When you agree to be part of a yearlong space study, you forfeit some right to privacy. In astronaut Scott Kelly’s case, the changes his body endured while spending a year at the International Space Station (ISS) were carefully analyzed by NASA, then published in a scientific journal for all to see. Kelly submitted blood samples, saliva samples, and cheek swabs. Even his poop was subjected to scrutiny.

As PBS reports, Scott Kelly’s fecal samples revealed that his gut microbiome underwent significant but reversible changes during his time in orbit. In what was surely good news for both Kelly and NASA, his gut bacteria didn’t contain anything “alarming or scary,” according to geneticist Martha Hotz Vitaterna, and it returned to normal within six months of landing on Earth.

Even after being subjected to the challenging conditions of space, “Scott’s microbiome still looked like Scott’s microbiome, just with a space twist on it,” said Vitaterna, who was one of the study’s authors.

The fecal probe was one small part of a sweeping NASA study that was just published in the journal Science, more than three years after Kelly’s return. Dubbed the Twins Study, it hinged on the results of Kelly’s tests being compared with those of his identical twin, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, who remained on Earth as the control subject.

NASA’s goal was to gain insight into the hazards that astronauts could face on proposed long-term missions to the Moon and Mars. The agency has gone to great lengths to get this information, including offering to pay people $18,500 to stay in bed for two months in order to replicate the conditions of anti-gravity.

It also explains why NASA was willing to launch unmanned rockets into space to collect samples of Kelly’s poop. On four different occasions at the ISS, Kelly used cotton swabs to pick up poo particles. When the rockets arrived to drop off lab supplies, they returned to Earth with little tubes containing the swabs, which had to be frozen until all of the samples were collected. The process was tedious, and on one occasion, one of the SpaceX rockets exploded shortly after it launched in 2015.

The study also found that his telomeres, the caps at the ends of chromosomes, had lengthened in space, likely due to regular exercise and a proper diet, according to NASA. But when Kelly returned to Earth, they began to shorten and return to their pre-spaceflight length. Shorter telomeres have a correlation with aging and age-related diseases. “Although average telomere length, global gene expression, and microbiome changes returned to near preflight levels within six months after return to Earth, increased numbers of short telomeres were observed and expression of some genes was still disrupted,” researchers wrote.

Researchers say more studies will be needed before they send the first human to Mars. Check out NASA's video below to learn more about what they discovered.

[h/t PBS]

Blue Apron’s Memorial Day Sale Will Save You $60 On Your First Three Boxes

Scott Eisen/Getty Images
Scott Eisen/Getty Images

If you’ve gone through all the recipes you had bookmarked on your phone and are now on a first-name basis with the folks at the local pizzeria, it might be time to introduce a new wrinkle into your weekly dinner menu. But instead of buying loads of groceries and cookbooks to make your own meal, you can just subscribe to a service like Blue Apron, which will deliver all the ingredients and instructions you need for a unique dinner.

And if you start your subscription before May 26, you can save $20 on each of your first three weekly boxes from the company. That means that whatever plan you choose—two or four meals a week, vegetarian or the Signature plan—you’ll save $60 in total.

With the company’s Signature plan, you’ll get your choice of meat, fish, and Beyond foods, along with options for diabetes-friendly and Weight Watchers-approved dishes. The vegetarian plan loses the meat, but still allows you to choose from a variety of dishes like General Tso's tofu and black bean flautas.

To get your $60 off, head to the Blue Apron website and click “Redeem Offer” at the top of the page to sign up.

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NASA's Juno Probe Captures Stunning New Look at Jupiter's Swirling Atmosphere

NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS
NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS

Upon entering Jupiter's orbit in 2016, NASA's Juno spacecraft provided us with an intimate look at the largest planet in our solar system. Four years later, the probe continues to shed light on the gas giant. Two new pictures taken by the JunoCam show Jupiter's swirling, iridescent atmosphere in striking detail, and they're raising new questions about the planet's composition, Space.com reports.

The first image, captured on February 17, 2020, shows bands of haze particles extending above the main level of Jupiter's eddying clouds. NASA scientists aren't sure what these bands might be, but one theory is that they're the byproduct of the jet stream bands that have been known to form around the same spot.

Close-up of Jupiter's atmosphere.
A close-up of Jupiter's atmosphere.
NASA/JPL/SwRI/MSSS; image processing by Gerald Eichstädt

In the second picture, taken on April 10, Jupiter's upper atmosphere is shown in even clearer definition. Different types of clouds can be picked out of the abstract scene; the smaller, brighter clouds that appear to rise up from the edges of the swirling patterns are called "pop-up" clouds.

Close-up of Jupiter's atmosphere.
A tapestry of various types of clouds.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS

Juno has performed more than 25 close fly-bys of Jupiter. Thanks to the data the spacecraft has gathered, we now know the planet's poles are covered by Texas-sized ammonia cyclones, and that its interior is much different from what was previously believed.

[h/t Space.com]