Researchers love identical twins. Because they have the same genetic code, they provide a unique opportunity to determine how environment may lead to developmental differences – i.e. nature vs. nurture.
In this new program from the Stein Institute for Research on Aging, Brinda K. Rana, PhD, shares the results of NASA’s remarkable Twins Study. In March 2015, U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly embarked on a one year mission onboard the international space station. Meanwhile, his identical twin brother, Mark, remained on Earth giving scientists an opportunity to study the long-term effects of space travel on the human body versus normal development.
Ultimately, NASA wants to know what will happen to astronauts as they inch closer to their Mission to Mars. Space is a harsh environment, both physiologically and psychologically. Astronauts must contend with microgravity, disruptions in sleep cycles, radiation, and dietary limitations, as well as confined spaces and isolation from friends and family. What will happen to astronauts after 3 years – the time it will take to get them to Mars and back again?
But these studies not only have implications for the lives of astronauts. Physiologically, space travel mimics the effects of aging on the human body, changes such as cardiovascular decline, vision problems, muscle and bone atrophy, and cognitive impairment. Any discovery that improves the lives of astronauts in space could also be used to help us right here on Earth.
We’ve been to the moon and we’ve explored remote corners of our universe. What is next in our quest to unlock the secrets of our solar system?
Hear from Charles Kennel, chair of the National Academy’s Space Science Board and former Scripps Institution of Oceanography director, as he reviews NASA’s past accomplishments, present projects, and anticipated goals in “The Future of Human Space Exploration.”
To see more programs on Astrophysics and Space Science, visit our archive.
After traveling through the inner solar system for seven years, NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft reached Mercury in March 2011 and became the first ever mission to orbit this mysterious planet. Since then, MESSENGER has been making measurements with its suite of scientific instruments, including gamma-ray, neutron and x-ray spectrometers, magnetometer, laser altimeter, cameras and other instruments.
What were you doing when Curiousity touched down on the surface of Mars?
For those of us in California, the exciting moments of the rover’s descent and landing took place just before bedtime (10:30pm) so we watched it live on the NASA website. Don’t know about you, but we found it hard to hold back the tears as we watched the scientists and engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory erupt into celebration after the picture perfect landing.
Science is a beautiful thing and we can’t wait to see what Curiosity sends back to Earth in the coming months and years.
In the meantime, let’s look back at Curiosity’s rover predecessors, Spirit and Opportunity, with Steven Squyres, the principle scientist behind the Mars Exploration Rover Project, who visited UC Berkeley in 2011. He shares his experiences working on the mind-boggling project and talks about the future of planetory exploration in these three programs: