Have you ever heard of the theory of relativity? What has to do with the twins Scott and Mark Kelly?
An important experiment for NASA will start soon: send Scott in orbit while Mark, his twin brother, will remain on the Earth to understand the effects of the space environment on the human body.
Einstein, with the “twin paradox”, had speculated that if one of the twins traveled into space at a speed close to that of light, he would find his brother very much older than him on his return to earth. The passage of time depends on the reference system. Scientists have demonstrated the correlation that exists between time and speed (for example, the decay time increases when in the laboratory subatomic particles travel at speeds of about 300 km/s).
Scott and Mark are the only two identical twins astronauts in the world. The two monozygotic, with tests and clinical and psychological examinations, have been widely analyzed before the mission and they continue to be available during and after it, allowing a new step towards the exploration of the planet Mars. Scott will start with the Soyuz spacecraft from Baikonur on 27 March, along with two cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko. He will arrive on the International Space Station after six hours and he will stay for 342 days. Padalka will return to Earth after 168 days, instead Kelly and Kornienko on March 3, 2016. His stay in the ISS will be longer than the average of the other astronauts (six months) as this experiment is part of the program of space exploration of Mars and the first mission on this planet could last more than three years. The astronaut will undergo more than 500 experiments, the results of which will be compared with those of identical brother.
The study, by NASA in collaboration with the National Institute of Biomedical Research, has a total duration of three years. It costs about a billion and a half dollars. It includes ten different studies, belonging to four areas of inquiry: microbiology, human physiology, molecular studies, mental and behavioral health. The basis of the study is a comprehensive analysis of the genome of both men. One experiment involves the administration of a vaccine against influenza with the aim of understanding why the immune system weakens in the space. Another test will be relative to the bacteria that aid digestion, so the two men will eat the same food. The view also will be the subject of study to understand why glasses used on earth are no good in the space.
“For the first time we will do experiments on two individuals that are genetically identical and we will study them in depth, from the biomolecular level to the psychological,” said Craig Kundrot, from the Human Research Program at NASA. The study about the twins Kelly was born on their own initiative. “In general, the astronaut corps has shown to adjust well to the space missions – told to the television network ABC, Scott Kelly – but we need to understand the long-term effects of radiation on muscle mass, bone density and so on.”