Gabby Giffords Astronaut Hubby Mark Kelly and Twin To Be NASA Guinea Pigs

What Are Genetic Impacts of Longterm Space Travel?

getty images

By Reuters

Published August 10, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

NASA’s only identical twin astronauts are planning to serve as guinea pigs for studies investigating the genetic impacts of long-duration spaceflight.

Astronaut Mark Kelly, who commanded four space shuttle missions including the final flight of Endeavour, is set to be a test subject on Earth while his twin undergoes studies in orbit.

Kelly left NASA in 2011 to care for his wife, former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords. She was shot through the head in January 2011 when a gunman opened fire at a political event in Arizona, killing six people and wounding 26 others.

His brother, Scott Kelly, is preparing for a year-long mission aboard the International Space Station, the longest single spaceflight NASA has ever attempted.

Four Russian cosmonauts lived for a year or longer aboard the now-defunct Mir space station.

“This is sort of our first foray into the genetic aspects of spaceflight,” said John Charles, chief scientist with NASA’s human research program at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

“A study like this is going to be mostly observational, just see what we can find out,” he said.

The U.S. space agency is soliciting ideas from researchers about possible experiments.

Mark Kelly, who lives in Arizona with his wife, has volunteered to go to Houston several times during his brother’s year-long spaceflight for tests, Charles said.

Scott Kelly is a veteran of two shuttle missions and previously served as a space station crew member and commander.

Scientists would be looking for genetic differences in the twins due to one brother living in the gravity-free environment of space and the other on Earth.

“I’m hopeful that most of this can be done with blood that will be drawn or with things like questionnaires and surveys. That would be the easiest to implement,” Charles said.

“But we are prepared for any kind of suggestions that the scientific community present that do pass peer-review and do promise to illuminate the differences in (identical) twins in response to spaceflight,” he said.

Scott Kelly, who will be paired with Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko for the year-long spaceflight, is set to board the station in March 2015, about a month after he and his brother turn 50.

Proposals for the twins studies are due next month.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.