NASA astronaut Scott Kelly will return to Earth from the International Space Station (ISS) in the spring of 2016. He is one of two key components of a very special medical study NASA is conducting. His twin brother, Mark, is the other component. They are the superstars of the NASA Twin Study. While Scott is deployed for one year to the ISS, Mark is grounded here on Earth. A parallel study of two individuals who have the same genetics, but are in different environments, is underway. NASA wants to study the differing effects of identical medical events occurring to a human in orbit round the Earth and one whose feet are firmly planted on the ground.
In September both brothers were inoculated with an influenza vaccine. Before and after the injections, blood was drawn from the brothers to analyze how their immune systems responded to the vaccines. Understanding the changes the immune system undergoes is critical to keeping astronauts fit and healthy throughout a mission into space. However, maintaining spaceflight health is not the only thing doctors and scientists are working on. They also are devising methods to protect astronauts from infection while they are on Earth, prior to deployment. Success in developing such preventative measures will not only benefit astronauts. NASA’s humanitarian aim would share such data with medical professionals everywhere for the benefit of all mankind to benefit where health related issues are concerned. Patients with auto-immune diseases like diabetes and arthritis should keep their eyes turned toward NASA for possible breakthroughs in their treatment options as well as the possibility of a cure.
While on the ISS, Scott Kelly participated in radiation research with the RaDI-N2 Neutron Field Study. He collected eight detectors that had been placed throughout the station and returned them to the Russian crew who stored them until he returns with them later on in the year. Participation by the Canadian Space Agency used their bubble spectrometers to isolate and measure neutron radiation levels. Neutrons do not have an electrical charge. This makes it easier for neutron radiation to enter the body and cause damage. This study will provide NASA with data that will help develop methods that will protect future crews that participate in deep-space missions from radiation damage. All Earthlings will benefit from this technology also because it will help medical experts have a better understanding of how neutron radiation damages and mutates DNA in order to most effectively treat patients.
Once again, NASA is collaborating with many other agencies in order to gather the best talent team possible in order to gather vital information that will eventually benefit all mankind. The gringa is certain with a team of such diversity that surely there is a place for someone like me! Keeping my fingers crossed that at least one of NASA’s future missions has a need for a chatty, sassy, outspoken writer with an insatiable curiosity.
Source & Photo Credit: http://www.nasa.gov