NASA Studies Twins To Understand Effects Of Space

Spending a full year in space is a unique feat in and of itself; however, the newest person to engage in such an expedition will provide something extra for space research. NASA astronaut, Scott Kelly, along with his identical twin brother, Mark Kelly, will be included in a study to better understand the effect that space can have on humans.

Today, a Russian rocket will take the astronaut to the International Space Station for the longest stay on the ISS ever by an American. He will be traveling with Russian cosmonaut, Mikhail Kornienko, in a small crammed space without fresh air, rain, trees etc., – things Kelly has said he will miss immensely. Yet, he believes this is an important step for space research.

Throughout the duration of the space stay, the 51-year old twins will provide blood, saliva, urine, and fecal samples. Also, their immune systems, vision acuity, and level of bone loss will be tested to better understand the effects that spaceflight has on the body. Finally, the tips of their chromosomes will be tested to see if space radiation leads to premature aging.

Scientists already know that long orbital stays have negative effects on bones, muscles, and vision. However, understanding the level at which this is the case, could help scientists create preventative medicines, treatments, and technology, to better the conditions for humans.

In a publicized NASA video interview, Scott Kelly said, “If we’re going to go to Mars, we need to understand how the human body reacts in space for longer periods of time.”

The concept for the study did not present itself until Scott Kelly asked NASA how he should respond if questions regarding the use of his twin brother in research arose. This sparked the idea to do a comparative study, and Mark was immediately on board.

Kelly and Kornienko will be up there for the entire year, with other astronauts cycling in and out. Currently there are three crewmembers at the station – an American, a Russian, and an Italian. The Russian-American duo will break the previous record of just over seven months at ISS by nearly 5 months – an enormous feat. Additionally, when all is said and done, Kelly will have spent a cumulative 522 days in space, breaking the previous American record of Mike Fincke, who spent just over 381 days.

While the Russians have, in many respects, remained steps ahead of the United States in space exploration, the novelty of this new long-term comparative study will likely boost United States credibility and scientific authority.