Kelly Twins Participate in Space Study

Scott (L) and Mark (R) Kelly

October / November 2013

Irish-American identical twin astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly have volunteered for an observational study to determine the effects of space travel on human genetics.

Scott, who has spent 180 days in space, including a six-month stay aboard the International Space Station in 2011, is scheduled to blast off again in 2015 for a record-breaking year-long stay. Mark, who went on his final flight commanding the Shuttle Endeavor in 2011, has spent a total of 54 days in space, in 50 different aircrafts. He retired from NASA to help his wife, former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, recover from the critical wounds she sustained during the January 2011 shooting rampage in Tucson, Arizona.

By the time Scott Kelly returns from the ISS in 2016, he will have clocked 540 days in space – 10 times as many as his twin. This gave the Kelly brothers the idea that they could be useful observational subjects for NASA, providing researchers with a unique opportunity to learn more about how space travel and microgravity affect the human body. They pitched the idea to NASA’s Human Research Program (HRP), which recently invited the scientific community to submit proposals for investigation.

“The way we wrote the proposal is, essentially, anything that researchers think is relevant to understanding the genomics and proteomics and metabolomics and other ‘omics’ that can be deduced from a study of one astronaut in flight and one astronaut who is retired and not flying and living the good life in Albuquerque,” said John Charles, chief of the HRP’s International Science Office.

Scott is slated to launch in March 2015, a month after the twins’ 50th birthday.

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