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Astronaut Gets Younger In Space

An interesting story emerged this week regarding NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who participated in the NASA Twin Study. After his time in space, Scott's body was diligently and minutely compared with that of his identical twin brother Mark.

When looking at their blood samples, scientists noted a significant difference in Scott’s telomeres — a compound found at the ends of white blood cells that shrink the older a person gets.

“The telomeres are the things that are in our chromosomes that are indications of our physical age, so as we age, they get shorter – mine got longer in space,” Kelly told Fox News. “So it was a little bit like the fountain of youth – unfortunately when I got back down to Earth they went back down to where they were.”

When I read this, I couldn't help but think of the anti-agathic drugs that were developed in part to make long voyage space travel possible in the marvelous 1950's novel Cities in Flight by James Blish. Only citizens of the flying cities could receive the special anti-death, long-life drugs, so being of value to the city government was essential:

"As for the city, we never had such a job on the roster before, but a study of Scranton and some more successful towns convinces us that we need it. Will you take it?"

Chris's head was whirling with a wild, humming mixture of pride and bafflement. "Excuse me, Mr. Mayor - but just what is it?"

"City manager."

...Chris could not speak, but at last he managed to nod his head...

"Good. The City Fathers predicted you would, so you were started on the drugs in your first meal of today. Welcome to citizenship, Mr. Ford."

Another science-fictional idea to enable long space travel is cold sleep, as suggested by Robert Heinlein in 1941.

Update 05-May-2021: The word "astronaut", in the sense of a person who travels in space, was coined in 1930; see the article for astronaut from The Death's Head Meteor by Neil R. Jones. End update.

Via NASA.

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