Engineers at NASA have built a new spacecraft called the Orion that will take us farther into space than ever before, and could have us landing on Mars in just twenty years! A trip to Mars could take up to three years, and being in a spacecraft for so long without gravity can be hard on the human body. That’s why scientists at NASA need to make sure astronauts are able to handle the long trip. Identical twin astronauts, Scott and Mark Kelly, have come in handy for NASA’s research into how space travel affects the body.
On March 27, astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will set out to be the first people to stay on the International Space Station (ISS) for an entire year. Scientists will compare Scott’s health while in space and after he returns to that of his twin brother, Mark Kelly, who will stay on Earth the entire time.
Our bodies work best in an environment where gravity pulls on us. Without gravity pulling on our blood, too much blood flows to the head, like when you hang upside down too long. In space, astronauts also get annoying rashes. Scientists are not sure exactly why, but they think it’s because the immune system becomes overactive in space. Since vaccines activate the immune system, scientists will compare how the immune systems of the two brothers react to getting a flu vaccine.
The twins’ body and brain functions will be checked before, during and after the mission. They will give samples of their blood and urine for testing. In research labs all over the United States, scientists will work together, comparing the brothers’ blood flow, immune system function and aging to see how they are affected by space travel.
The Kelly brothers are the only twins to have traveled in space, and this study will unite them in a new way. “It’s a way for us to participate in a space flight together, which we never have done before,” Scott said.