双胞胎宇航员为人类飞向火星做准备

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从国际空间站(International Space Station)返回的斯科特·凯利(Scott Kelly)比他的同卵双胞胎兄弟马克(Mark)高了两英寸。


暂时的身高增加是在国际空间站生活近一年之后许多奇怪的影响之一。这其实很容易解释:由于没有正常的重力给身体向下的压力,脊椎就会扩展,回到地球以后就会很快恢复正常。


研究人员正在试图了解长时间的飞行任务会使人体发生什么变化,以便为终将到来的更加漫长的火星之旅和回程做准备。科学家们正在通过一个“双胞胎研究”项目,将斯科特在外太空的一年和马克在地球上的一年进行比较,这是有史以来的第一个此类研究。


双胞胎研究使科学家能够更好地了解基因或者环境的相对重要性。


作为双胞胎,这两人具有基本上相同的基因。两人都在太空中度过了不短的时间,马克在航天飞机(Space Shuttle)上度过了54天。马克确实注意到他们在高中时有一些差别:

他在接受美国航空航天局(NASA)采访时开玩笑说:“我想我选的课比较难,因为,你知道,[斯科特]上那些课有困难。”


密切合作


在一次漫长的航天旅行中,宇航员斯科特·凯利和俄罗斯宇航员米哈伊尔·科尔尼扬科与百日草合影。在太空培育百日草是他们的实验项目之一。(NASA)


在太空的一年中,斯科特·凯利与俄罗斯宇航员米哈伊尔·科尔尼扬科(Mikhail Kornienko)密切合作,承担为人类进行长途太空旅行作准备的各种实验。美国航空航天局、俄罗斯联邦航天局(Roscosmos)和其他国际合作伙伴正在研究宇航员在视力、肠道微生物、细胞和心理以及,其他方面的变化。


这对双胞胎和科尔尼扬科已经向研究人员提供了大量的身体数据,在接下来的几年中将对这些数据进行分析并予以发表。


下一步是什么?斯科特说:“去火星是可行的。” 虽然他并不会踏上这个旅程。他宣布4月份将从NASA退休。 “我们已经很接近了,如果我们做出选择,我认为我们可以做到这一点。”


科学实验并不是斯科特·凯利在太空的一年中做的唯一的事情。在其他数百个实验的间隙,他拍摄到一些令人惊叹的照片,还与他的兄弟一起悄悄地将一种不同的宇航服带进空间站!

Meet the twin astronauts taking us closer to Mars


Scott Kelly returned from the International Space Station two inches taller than his identical twin, Mark.


Temporary tallness is one of the many strange effects of spending almost a year aboard the International Space Station. It’s fairly simple to explain: Without normal gravity pushing down on the body, the spine expands, then quickly returns to normal back on Earth.


Researchers are trying to understand what happens to the human body during lengthy missions to prepare for an eventual — and much longer — journey to Mars and back. Now, for the first time ever, scientists are comparing Scott’s year in space and Mark’s year on earth in a “twin study.”


Twin studies enable scientists to better understand the relative importance of genetics or the environment in a study’s results.


As identical twins, the two men share essentially the same genetics. Both have spent significant time in space, with Mark logging 54 days aboard the Space Shuttle. Mark does note a few differences, however, when the two were in high school:

“I think I took the harder classes, because, you know, [Scott] had a hard time with those,” he joked in an interview with NASA.


A collaborative effort


During a long spaceflight, astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko pose with one of their experiments: space-grown zinnias. (NASA)


Throughout his year in space, Scott Kelly worked closely with Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko on experiments to prepare humans for long trips in space. NASA, the Russian space program Roscosmos, and other international partners are studying changes in astronauts’ eyesight, gut microbes, cells and psychology, among other things.


The twins and Kornienko have released a trove of health data to researchers, which will be analyzed and published over the next several years.


What’s next? “Going to Mars is doable,” said Scott, although he won’t be the one making the journey. He announced his retirement from NASA as of April. “We’re close enough that if we make the choice, I think we can do it.”


Science isn’t all Scott Kelly did in his year in space. In between hundreds of other experiments, he was able to take some amazing pictures — and collude with his brother to sneak a different sort of spacesuit onto the station! 


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