So, how's it going up there? Scott Kelly, NASA astronaut, identical twin and current International Space Station resident is three months into his year long stay at the ISS and took time to check in with a curious public. In an interview with CBS News, he talked about some of the challenges he's facing and the experiments that are being conducted.
The medical research that is being done on board the ISS is significant because of the length of the mission and also because researchers have a rare opportunity to study identical twins. For the first time, the body changes, blood tests and other evaluations have a control factor: Scott Kelly's twin brother Mark, who is on Earth and going through all of the same evaluations.
Researchers are looking closely at several kinds of medical factors. Genetics of course, since they have two sets of the same DNA to work with. Specifically, tests are being conducted to measure telomeres, which are found at the end of chromosomes and tend to shrink as we age.
Gut bacteria is also a concern. In the normal human digestive tract there are trillions of bacteria, some good, some not so good. NASA will be looking at both brothers to see if the time spent in space changed any of the microscopic make up of the gut.
Eyeballs and arteries will be closely studied as well. Zero gravity can affect both of these body systems. Previous ISS astronauts have had had permanent changes in the shape and function of their eyeballs and this could be a major issue for future missions. Kelly, in his interview with CBS News, stated, "You wouldn't want some astronauts to get on Mars after a year and a half, or longer when they're coming home, and not be able to see. It's something we don't understand, but it's something we're working hard at understanding and mitigating the effects. We've done a lot of research up here since I've been here to better understand that."
Aside from the science and medical parts of the mission, Kelly was asked about the general day-to-day life on board. What does is sound like? Does it smell bad? He had no complaints about the noise or the smell, telling CBS anchor Scott Pelley, "It doesn't smell too bad." The smell of outer space however, was something else Kelly explained, saying "whenever a vehicle docks or if guys are out doing a spacewalk, the smell of space when you open up the hatch is very distinct. It's kind of like a burning-metal smell, if you can imagine what that would smell like. And as far as the sounds on the space station, it's pumps, fans, motors, certain modules are louder than others, but it's generally a pretty nice working environment. It's not too loud or too smelly."
When Kelly was asked if being onboard was similar to being in prison he made some comparisons, but concluded by telling CBS News, "The big difference, though, is we're here by choice. So that makes, I guess, the situation a little bit better."
Check out the video below to see the entire interview
I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.