NASA to Conduct Twin Astronaut Studies


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The physics behind spaceflight are well understood, but what exactly being in orbit does to the human body is still being uncovered. To help out with this research NASA today announced that it now has plans to study the physiological effects of microgravity using twins.

The agency's Human Research Program and the National Space Biomedical Research has selected 10 "short-term" studies for the unique program. The studies will look at the molecular, genetic, and other effects of space travel. The studies come out of 10 different research institutions in seven states which will receive a portion of $1.5 million allotted for the twin astronaut research program.

The study will observe the changes seen in Mark and Scott Kelly, identical twin brothers that also happen to be astronauts. Though Mark is retired as an astronaut, Scott is scheduled to board the International Space Station (ISS) in March 2015 and stay on board for one year.

Before and during the mission and after Scott returns to Earth both he and Mark will provide blood samples to be used in the study. The brothers will also submit themselves to physicals and psychological tests during these times.

As odd as it sounds, the opportunity to use these identical twins for research was a popular one for researchers. According to NASA, 40 different research proposals were submitted and reviewed before NASA narrowed them down to the best 10. Researchers are hoping for the study will provide insight into the human effects of spaceflight, possibly reducing the health risks that astronauts currently face. According to NASA such studies often end up providing data that helps Earthbound human healthcare as well.

Image via NASA