Staying in space is different from staying on Earth. When astronauts return to Earth from orbit, they usually suffer from muscle loss.

Are there any genetic (abnormal) changes in their cells or in their offspring?

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    $\begingroup$ There is currently a experiment, using two twins that are both astronauts, to investigate that question. geneticliteracyproject.org/2013/08/07/… $\endgroup$ – matthew spear Aug 8 '13 at 13:04
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    $\begingroup$ Could you please narrow your question down a bit? Genetic changes happen all the time even under "normal" circumstances, with e.g. chemical processes restructuring protein amino acids, e.t.c. and most of such changes don't manifest in long term mutations, and are repaired, or benign in nature. I believe you're specifically after genetic mutations with undesirable effects on astronaut's health, or their offspring? $\endgroup$ – TildalWave Aug 8 '13 at 14:21
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    $\begingroup$ Start your search on PubMed: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed The current problem is that human ova may not survive Galactic Cosmic Rays. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2005 Apr 26;102(17):6063-7. Epub 2005 Apr 13. Germ cell mutagenesis in medaka fish after exposures to high-energy cosmic ray nuclei: A human model. Shimada A, Shima A, Nojima K, Seino Y, Setlow RB. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1087928/pdf/… $\endgroup$ – Deer Hunter Aug 8 '13 at 15:38
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    $\begingroup$ You have to state whether it is LEO (within the Van Allen belts) or beyond LEO. $\endgroup$ – Deer Hunter Aug 8 '13 at 15:38
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, clearly, as experienced by the Fantastic Four. Also interestingly, you can hear cosmic rays. $\endgroup$ – Mark Adler Apr 10 '14 at 16:45

It depends on amount of time astronauts spend in space, as DNA changes are as more probable as more radiation the body receives, and spacesuits, and habitat themselves, offer much less radiation shieldeing than earth atmosphere: ISS radiation shielding is 1/100 of Earth atmosphere shielding (10g/cm2 vs 1000 g/cm2); Apollo space suits offered just 1/10000 of Earth shielding (don't know about current spacesuits)

What, if any, reduction in radiation exposure does the atmosphere of Mars provide?

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  • $\begingroup$ LEO is still within the Earth's magnetic field though, at least for the most part (not so much over the South-Atlantic Anomaly). ;) $\endgroup$ – TildalWave Apr 10 '14 at 16:48

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