Home > NewsRelease > Humans in Space -- The Herman Trend Alert May 1, 2019
Humans in Space -- The Herman Trend Alert May 1, 2019
Joyce L. Gioia, CMC, CSP --  The Herman Group Joyce L. Gioia, CMC, CSP -- The Herman Group
Austin , TX
Wednesday, May 01, 2019


The Herman Trend Alert

May 1, 2019

Humans in Space

The International Space Station (ISS) has been in continuous operation for 18 years. For this entire time, humans have been living and working on the station, Thanks to the NASA Twin Study, we now have a general concept about what happens to our human bodies in zero gravity.

NASA's Twin Study 

NASA was fortunate that Scott and Mark Kelly, a pair of identical twins, qualified for the astronaut program. NASA wanted to study the effects of being in space on the human body. Scott spent 340 days on the ISS, while Mark stayed on Earth for the duration of this study, though he has previously spent short stints in space. The NASA Twin Study worked because the astronauts shared the same basic genetics. Thus, scientists had an extraordinary chance to study the effects of being in space on the body.

The Twin Study insights from zero gravity

Our hearts change shape, reducing the amount of oxygen the blood can absorb and transport. Without gravitational challenge for long periods, our bones and muscles weaken. Fluids increase pressure in the eyes by rushing towards our heads. The longer people remain in space, these symptoms seem to worsen.

Some of Kelly's genetic changes were surprising

As we have discussed in the past, "telomeres" (the threads at the ends of our chromosomes) are a definite indication of the aging process. As we grow older telomeres shorten. Surprisingly, Scott Kelly's telomeres became longer in space; this lengthening is thought to be a protective response. However, within months of his return, Kelly's telomeres appeared "frayed", suggesting that some of his telomeres had disintegrated completely. Short telomeres typically correlate with age-related diseases such as heart disease and cancer. But the jury is still out about whether Scott is now at higher risk for these health problems.

Scott Kelly experienced numerous problems

According to one of the researchers, whose team worked on genomics, "Gene expression changed dramatically; in the last six months of the mission, there were six times more changes in gene expression than in the first half of the mission." Due to fluid buildup, Scott had problems with his eyes, unlike earth-bound Mark. In space, Scott had "puffy face" syndrome, due to cardiovascular changes and his immune system also responded to the stress. Moreover, his kidney function deteriorated, and it could have led to dehydration and kidney stones, although it did not. Finally, when Scott took a battery of cognitive tests, he performed worse in nearly all of areas except for spatial orientation after his space flight; both his speed and accuracy of reasoning suffered for at least six months after returning to earth. Scientists aren't certain what caused this poor performance; it could have been the trauma of re-entry or the demand for astronauts to participate in research studies and media events

Most problems were not permanent

However, over 91 percent of expression changes reverted back to baseline for Scott within six months after he returned home. The team concluded, "Overall, these data show plasticity and resilience for many core genetic and biological functions."

The limits of extrapolation

The challenge is that these results and conclusions may not be true for everyone. The team acknowledged, "We really can't say if any of the results are due to space travel or coincidence." However, their data do point the way to areas for future study involving other astronauts. This research was a first step to help researchers understand and counteract the negative health effects of space.

Only the beginning

The NASA Twin Study was a start. With long-term, commercial spaceflight on the horizon, NASA and others are eager to take the next steps. We will surely need more studies examining the health impact of even longer spaceflight in the future to consider traveling to Mars and beyond.


© Copyright 1998-2019 by The Herman Group, Inc. -- reproduction for publication is encouraged, with the following attribution: From "The Herman Trend Alert," by Joyce Gioia, Strategic Business Futurist. 336-210-3548 or http://www.hermangroup.com. To sign up, visit http://www.HermanTrendAlert.com. The Herman Trend Alert is a trademark of The Herman Group, Inc."

The Herman Group is a firm of Strategic Business Futurists concentrating on workforce and workplace issues. We forecast the future and advise clients regarding relevant trends and how those trends may affect their lives. Applying our expertise as Certified Management Consultants, we advise corporate leaders regarding employee retention and organizational development to help them build workforce stability. We help organizations become Employers of Choice®. We also work with Employer of Choice, Inc. to formally recognize employers that meet the stringent standards dictated by the labor marketplace. As authors of management books and as active professional speakers, we inform and inspire people to make a positive difference in the world of work.

You did really get the ball rolling with our retention presentation, overall we have seen a move in the right direction with our turnover. 

In practice since 1980, we have served a wide variety of clients throughout the United States and in other countries. Our global affiliates assist us in sharing our expertise and advice with clients internationally. Our team of professional consultants and trainers is supported by an administrative staff that gets things done. We also have consultants certified to deliver our programs in your local area.

Delivering to both small and large groups across 100 industries, The Herman Group has provided over 2,500 educational and informative keynote speeches and training seminars worldwide.

Based in Greensboro, North Carolina, we travel extensively to meet the needs of our clients. We can always be reached through the support team in our office at (800) 227-3566. Overseas callers may reach us through 336-210-3547.

Should you have any questions after touring our website, please call or e-mail us at info@hermangroup.com.

Get started now on improving the stability and performance of your workforce and increase your chances for success in the future.


News Media Interview Contact
Name: Joyce L. Gioia, CMC, CSP
Title: Certified Speaking Professional and Management Consultant
Group: The Herman Group
Dateline: Austin, TX United States
Direct Phone: 336-210-3548
Main Phone: 800-227-3566
Cell Phone: 336-210-3548
Jump To Joyce L. Gioia, CMC, CSP --  The Herman Group Jump To Joyce L. Gioia, CMC, CSP -- The Herman Group
Contact Click to Contact
Other experts on these topics