The human body is unable to live in space for a long time, so when astronauts have to stay in the International Space Station (ISS) for months, they can expect changes in their bodies, such as the case of American astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent a year aboard the ISS for a full year back in 2015.
A Year in Space, Human Edition
Scott stayed longer than what is normal in space that the experience caused some changes when he came back to Earth, including a change in his gut microbiome, and even a slight change in his DNA compared to his twin, former astronaut Mark Kelly-- all of which are documented in several research papers, according to the press release by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
Furthermore, the astronaut experienced sore feet for three months after coming back to Earth.
While humans changed and adapted to the challenging environment up in space, a species of bacteria originally found in a can of meat basically had no problems living in space.
What's surprising is that the bacterium, known as Deinococcus radiodurans, lived outside of the ISS, where it has no protection against UV radiation, weightlessness, and the variety of threats in space.
A Year in Space, Bacterium Edition
According to ScienceAlert, the bacterium is still alive and kicking even after staying outside in space for a year in a specially-designed platform.
The microbe was first dehydrated for its journey to the ISS, where it's then placed in the space station's Exposed Facility, an area that is continuously exposed to space.
It was then placed behind a silicon dioxide glass that blocked UV light at wavelengths that are lower than 190 nanometers.
"Results presented in this study may increase awareness regarding planetary protection concerns on, for instance, the Martian atmosphere which absorbs UV radiation below 190-200 nm," the researchers, who hailed from Germany, Austria, and Japan, wrote in their research paper about D. radiodurans that was published in the journal Microbiome.
After its endurance test in space, the bacterium was brought back to Earth and was rehydrated to be compared with a control specimen that spent the year here on our planet.
Not Quite the Same
The Low Earth Orbit (LEO) specimen came back rather well despite its lower survival rate, although it did come back a little different than when it was sent to space, specifically, it was covered in small bumps known as vesicles on its surface.
"Intensified vesiculation after recovery from LEO exposure can serve as a quick stress response, which augments cell survival by withdrawing stress products," the team wrote.
They also believed that the outer membrane vesicles were important for DNA transfer and getting their food, among other functions, which helped them survive space and elicited activation of resistance mechanisms after they were exposed to the space environment.
This was not the first time scientists put the bacterium to the test as a sample was previously brought to space and was exposed to the harsh environment up there for three years.
The study aims to get down to the bottom of how these tiny creatures survive, which may soon help humanity as we venture deeper into space that requires more extended space travel.
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Written by: Nhx Tingson