By Ashley Welch CBS News March 1, 2016, 4:46 PM
What a year in space means for Scott Kelly's health
Astronaut Scott Kelly returns to Earth on Tuesday night after his record-setting mission, but have you ever wondered what almost a year in space does to a person's body, and how astronauts reacclimate to terrestrial life?
Kelly will first touch down in Kazakhstan, then fly back to the Johnson Space Center in Houston. But before he returns home to his family, he will undergo extensive testing to evaluate the toll of all those months in zero gravity and help him readapt to life on Earth.
Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer and planetarium director for the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia, said that as soon as Kelly lands, doctors will do thorough tests to evaluate his cardiovascular functioning.
"His heart has not had to work so hard because it's not under the influence of gravity," Pitts told CBS News. "So there will be some work to see how strong his heart muscle is and check and see what the resilience is of his blood vessels."
Doctors will also evaluate his musculature and bone density. "Even though he exercised quite a bit while he was in space, he's still not under 1G so there's going to be testing for that," Pitts said.
Without the force of gravity, bones stop producing bone cells and become more brittle, Pitts explained. He noted that Kelly is not in any danger because of these changes, but doctors want to find out to what degree there have been changes to the inner bone structure.
Kelly's eyes will also be extensively checked. "Under zero-G conditions there have been some deformation of the eye structure that has caused some concern among doctors as they look at astronauts coming back from space," Pitts said.
As for how Kelly can expect his body to feel upon returning to Earth, Pitts said it will take some time for him to get his "Earth legs" back.
"When they first come back, in this case, I think Scott... won't be up walking around a tremendous amount to begin with. It'll take him a day or so to get used to that again," he said.
One of the key goals of Kelly's mission has been to identify how an extended period of time in space affects the human body. Scientists are using Kelly's twin brother Mark, a retired astronaut, as a control subject to compare him to.
I've read some articles about what our other astronauts have felt and suffered once they were re-exposed to earths gravity...the issues with the eye sight and bone cells --- caused me great concern for Mr. Kelly.
We are so fortunate that there are humans willing to be so brave and volunteer for these missions. While I'd love to go out there and see all that they do --- the phobia of tight places and helmets --- nope, I'd never manage the training it takes to become a space person. LOL
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