Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls
On March 27, 2015, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian Cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will launch to the International Space Station, beginning a one-year mission in space, testing the limits of human research, space exploration and the human spirit.
This space project is also known as “The Twins Study:” Ten separate investigations coordinating together and sharing all data and analysis as one large, integrated research team. NASA has selected 10 investigations to conduct with identical twin astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly. These investigations will provide broader insight into the subtle effects and changes that may occur in spaceflight as compared to Earth by studying two individuals who have the same genetics, but are in different environments for one year.
While Scott Kelly is in space, his identical twin brother, retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, will participate in a number of comparative genetic studies. Some of these experiments will include the collection of blood samples as well as psychological and physical tests. These tests will track any degeneration or evolution that occurs in the human body from extended exposure to a zero-gravity environment. The new twin studies are a multi-faceted national cooperation between universities, corporations and government laboratory expertise.
Most expeditions to the space station last four to six months. By doubling the length of this mission, researchers hope to better understand how the human body reacts and adapts to long-duration spaceflight. This knowledge is critical as NASA looks toward human journeys deeper into the solar system, including to and from Mars, which could last 500 days or longer. It also carries potential benefits for humans here on Earth, from helping patients recover from long periods of bed rest to improving monitoring for people whose bodies are unable to fight infections.
Long exposure to a zero-gravity environment can affect the human body in multiple ways. Some physical symptoms can include changes to the eyes, muscle atrophy and bone loss. Human psychology is also an important area of study, as the effects of living in isolated and small spaces will be important to understand ahead of future human missions to Mars. Research collected from the one-year mission can help NASA and the international partners reduce risks and better understand how to ensure astronauts will thrive on longer missions.
There are seven key elements of research on the one-year mission. Functional studies will examine crew member performance during and after the 12-month span. Behavioral studies will monitor sleep patterns and exercise routines. Visual impairment will be studied by measuring changes in pressure inside the human skull. Metabolic investigations will examine the immune system and effects of stress. Physical performance will be monitored through exercise examinations. Researchers will also monitor microbial changes in the crew, as well as the human factors associated with how the crew interacts aboard the station.
All info according to http://www.nasa.gov/content/a-year-in-space/index.html