‘it worked out’
Getting those fluids back to Earth was logistically challenging even when rockets did not blow upward, according to Lindsay Rizzardi, a senior scientist at the HudsonAlpha Institute and an author on the study. That is because they had freshly isolated blood samples for a few of the investigations. (Freezing the cells killed some, and it made it hard to split them into different cell types, she says.) That supposed when a spacecraft has been scheduled to depart the space channel, samples could gather.
This is called a pilot study that shows it is possible to do genomics by rizzardi. And while they can not draw any sweeping conclusions about the effects of a long stay in space on the human body, they’ve ironed out a few of the logistical kinks for prospective study. Rizzardi spent days on the plane known as the”vomit comet,” for instance, trying not to puke as she and her colleagues exercised how to prepare the blood samples through periods of weightlessness. That way, in the future, samples could have the ability to remain on the space station longer. “We did not even know if we would be able to receive our samples back and forth,” she says. They know they can; they just need participants such as the Kellys. “I think with more astronauts we will be able to flesh this out extremely well and find some great insights,” she says.
The study looked at the differences between equal twin astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly, enclosing the entire year that Scott spent on International Space Station. (Mark, who is now running for Senate, remained on Earth the whole time.) The results, published today in the journal Science, report that lots of the in-flight modifications to Scott’s body snapped back into the way they were before he left the floor. But some — like harm to his DNA, also falls in his psychological performance — didn’t. Overall, the analysis gave NASA a starting point for research into just how long-term spaceflight affects the human body. But to reach that line had to dodge a lot of obstacles that are unique to spaceflight.
The samples hurtled down to Earth, landed in Kazakhstan, before sending off parts to the labs, where the blood was processed by a researcher, and they had been loaded on a plane to Houston. “All that occurred in under 48 hours,” Rizzardi states. “It is mind-boggling to think that we were looking at samples that were in distance 48 hours ”
There’s no substitute for samples, although at least the ultrasound work was distant. Scientists needed to have Scott’s blood, pee, and poop from the ISS back. In at least one instance, just getting Scott the supplies to carry those samples went disastrously wrong when a SpaceX rocket blew up on its way into the International Space Station in 2015, taking collection tubes and provides .
When that rocket exploded, the group scrambled to make do with the equipment already on the International Space Station. “What if there is a problem with another rocket? And then suddenly we are out of tubes, and we’re in the middle of a study,” Mason says. Fortunately, he says, the rocket that was next made this up.
1 worry is that long-term spaceflight could damage blood vessel health; researchers have seen thickening of their carotid artery at astronauts on six-month flights, which could be a signal of potential cardiovascular disease. A group headed by Stuart Lee, lead scientist at biomedical contractor KBRwyle, set out to measure Scott Kelly’s carotid artery down to the floor. These measurements are conducted with ultrasounds, which Scott learned how to use on the floor, but it took some coaching to learn to perform while.
Because astronauts on the International Space Station are on Coordinated Universal Time, that supposed middle-of-the-night visits to mission control in Texas in which there was a two-way personal video conference set up, Lee states. The person responsible for directing Scott, called the sonographer, could see him. “So the sonographer can declare,’I would like you to set the probe here,’ and then he can fix,” Lee states. The challenge was that there was a two-second delay, and changes can be caused by motions of the probe in the view. “So it’s a real art by our sonographer to talk people through that.”