Tag Archives: Scott Kelly

ISS twin study suggests weightlessness stresses the body in unexpected ways

The first preliminary results from NASA’s comparison of Scott Kelly, who spent 340 days on ISS, and his twin brother Mark, who did not, suggests that weightlessness stresses the body’s genetic system in ways not previously measured.

Preliminary results are in from NASA’s unprecedented twin study — a detailed probe of the genetic differences between astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent nearly a consecutive year in space, and his identical twin Mark. Measurements taken before, during and after Scott Kelly’s mission reveal changes in gene expression, DNA methylation and other biological markers that are likely attributable to his time in orbit.

From the lengths of the twins’ chromosomes to the microbiomes in their guts, “almost everyone is reporting that we see differences”, says Christopher Mason, a geneticist at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. He and other project scientists reported the early results on 26 January in Galveston, Texas, at a meeting of scientists working in NASA’s Human Research Program. “The data are so fresh that some of them are still coming off the sequencing machines,” Mason says.

It remains unclear at this point the medical consequences of these genetic changes. The data from this first experiment is still too preliminary, and it only involves looking at two people, a sample that is obviously too small. Nonetheless, it is a beginning, and of some significance.

Kelly describes medical issues from weightlessness

In prepared remarks to a congressional subcommittee today, astronaut Scott Kelly described the medical problems he has experienced since returning from his 340 day mission on ISS.

Kelly claimed in these remarks that weightlessness caused permanent effects (which this news article decides to emphasize), but I think that might be an overstatement. None of the specific problems he experienced appear to be permanent ones, and in my interviews with Russian astronauts who stayed even longer on Mir they noted no permanent effects. One did say however that the recovery time tended to match the mission time, so that if you spent a year in space it took a year to completely recover. Kelly has only been back about three months, so his recovery is certainly not over yet.

Update: Kelly’s remarks were part of a hearing promoting legislation that would give astronauts lifetime medical coverage from the government. Thus, there is a bit of lobbying going on here.

Astronauts return after 340 days on ISS

After 340 days in space astronauts Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko safely returned to Earth early today.

Now the real research begins. Because Kelly has an identical twin, Mark Kelly, who is also a former astronaut, researchers will be able to gain a great deal of knowledge comparing the differences in how their bodies changed over the nearly full year, with one in weightlessness and the other on Earth.

However, what I want is longer missions, two or three years long, thus far exceeding what it would take to travel to and from Mars. Only then can we find out if humans will be able to make the journey safely.

Wrapping up the longest space mission by an American

My how time flies: Astronaut Scott Kelly’s almost year-in-space is scheduled to end on March 1st.

Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will come back to Earth Tuesday (March 1), wrapping up an unprecedented 340-day stay on the orbiting lab. (Crewmembers typically live and work aboard the station for 5 to 6 months at a time.)

The article is wrong when it calls this mission “unprecedented.” The Russians have flown four astronauts in space for more than a year, with one spending 14.5 months in orbit. Though Kelly’s experience will provide valuable data for future long term missions to the planets, it remains disappointing to me that NASA didn’t have the courage to push this beyond the previous Russian record.

How scientists are using the Kelly twins during Scott Kelly’s year-long mission to ISS to learn how weightlessness effects the human body

Link here. Scott Kelly launches today to the station to begin the flight.

The article’s headline and initial focus on how the Kellys’ privacy rights might interfere with the research seems inappropriate. It is as if the author and Nature wanted to spin the story to force the Kellys to reveal private medical data they would prefer to keep private.

The real story the article tells is that an incredible wealth of knowledge about microgravity will be gained by this flight, because the Kellys are both participating. And depending on what is learned when their entire genomes are sequenced, we might also be able to study that fully as well.

Two astronauts gear up for one year in space

The final preparations are under way for sending two astronauts, one American and one Russian, to ISS for a full year.

Their launch is scheduled for March 27 in a Soyuz capsule.

One other cool aspect of this long mission: The American astronaut, Scott Kelly, has a twin brother, Mark Kelly, who is also an astronaut, though retired. Mark will be duplicating some of Scott’s in-space activities during the mission. Doctors will also compare how Scott’s body changes in weightlessness over time, in comparison to his brother here on Earth.