Living in space for one year can change a lot about a person, including their DNA.
For NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, his year spent living and working on the International Space Station made him more of an environmentalist and gave him a view of our planet that most people will never see in person.
But beyond those shifts in perspective, Kelly’s body may have changed in other ways.
SEE ALSO: This astronaut just spent 340 days in space. Here’s why it was worth it.
According to preliminary data released by NASA, Kelly’s genes, fine motor skills, microbiome and other aspects of his body were altered during the 340 days he spent in orbit from 2015 to 2016.
Using Kelly’s data to get to Mars
Learning more about how a long trip to space affected Kelly is particularly important because NASA is aiming to send humans to Mars in the next two decades, a mission that would require astronauts to live in the weightlessness of space for several months while traveling to and from the red planet’s surface.
One experiment, which was performed when Kelly and his year-in-space partner Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko got back to Earth, simulated various tasks astronauts may have to perform when they first arrive on Mars.
Kelly and Kornienko appeared to have the hardest time with tasks involving “postural control and stability and muscle dexterity,” according to a NASA statement. This makes sense if you think about it: The two Space Station crewmembers were living in weightlessness for nearly a year. After that, you probably wouldn’t exactly have the best core strength either.
This also follows the results of another experiment, which showed that the fine motor skills of the crewmembers may be impacted by long stays in space, meaning that it’s possible astronauts traveling to another world will have trouble using computers after such long trips, NASA said.