NASA is using identical twin astronauts, Mark and Scott Kelly, to study the effects of lengthy weightlessness on the body. Mark Kelly will be staying on Earth for the study, while his brother Scott will be spending one year at the space station. The study will start next spring.
This is an unparalleled study combining identical twins and outer space. Since both Scott and Mark are astronauts, NASA has a unique ability to test the differences in the body after being in a weightless environment for an extended period of time. Both astronauts will undergo a series of medical tests before and after Scott leaves for the space station.
NASA will compare the medial test of both identical twins in this study to understand exactly how the body is affected in space compared to on Earth. Mark thinks the study will be harder on him than his bother Scott. Mark teases his brother, pointing out that when while in space, there are no friends to tempt him to go out to eat, or any junk food to consume. Mark will have to monitor what he eats, and also he will have to match Scotts daily exercise of one to two hours per day.
The goal of this study is one year. However, no American has ever lasted in the space that long. The longest time for a single human mission is seven months. The Russians have a record of a 14.5-month mission that took place in 1994 to 1995.
Astronaut Scott Kelly is more than ready for the challenge. The astronaut said in a recent interview that he has no second thoughts and is excited for the mission. In 2010 to 2011, Scott spent five months in an orbiting lab. The astronaut even offered to drill a hole into his skull, so a pressure sensor could study his vision. In past missions, staying too long in space impaired some astronauts’ vision, and Scott wants to help collect data to understand how to prevent this.
Scott also volunteered to have spinal tabs while he is in orbit; however, NASA says that is unnecessary for this study. The astronaut says that he likes to push the envelope and he wants to help collect as much data as possible. NASA said they appreciate the great lengths that Scott is willing to go to for the study.
The twins will each receive a flu shot before and after the one-year mission. Blood draws will also be a normal part of the study, as it helps highlight the differences happening in the body in space verse on Earth. Other areas of the body that will be studied are: hardened arteries, reaction time, fluid shifts, gut bacteria, and the immune system.
NASA confirms that this is a unique opportunity to study identical twins and how being in space will affect the body. Craig Kundrot, the deputy chief scientist at NASA, says that Mark and Scott are a scientific gift, because they are the same genetically. Even rarer is the fact that they are both astronauts and have followed that same career path. Kundrot says this is an uncanny opportunity, and NASA is excited to take advantage of it.
By Sara Petersen