Scott Kelly Returns to Earth as Scientists Prepare for Mission to Mars
The science for the journey to Mars continues. While NASA astronaut Scott Kelly has now returned to Earth, he has paved the way for future missions after embarking on a one-year mission in space.
While every space mission is significant, this one in particular stands out. NASA partnered with other space agencies to conduct numerous human research investigations to see how the human body changes during a year in space. Two of these investigations, which dealt with the effects of long spaceflights on the human body were fluid shifts and field tests.
Fluid shifts deal with changes in the visual system and field tests deal with post-landing capabilities of astronauts immediately after long spaceflights. These investigations break down technological and logistical barriers while increasing international collaboration.
Preparing for a three-year mission to Mars requires innovative thinking. Scott Kelly actually has an identical twin. While his twin, Mark, spent the year on Earth, Scott spent it in space. This allows researchers to focus on a near-identical comparison of their genomics and omics profiles to see how space affected Scott.
"We would be happy to see no difference in a six-month mission versus a year-long mission," said John Charles, chief scientist of the NASA Human Research Program, in a news release. "But we do anticipate changes. This was the first time we have done in-depth omics profiles on twins. The longer a human is in space, the more that individual is exposed to risks such as radiation and weightlessness. Our integrated team of researchers are addressing those risks to create countermeasures to enable more advanced space travel. By integrating international collaborative science, and thus emphasizing the 'I' in International Space Station, our combined efforts can yield the biggest benefit."
The findings are integral for eventually sending a human to Mars.
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