Folks We Admire – Scott Kelly

April 20, 2016

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Astronauts! Radiation! and Twins! discussed by (a twin herself): Ona Rygelis!

Once I joined ImageThink, I discovered the tremendous amount of work the company has done in the space and technology field. These topics are of interest to me and I also have a twin sister- so I’m naturally drawn to astronaut Scott Kelly‘s story…

On March 2, 2016, American astronaut Scott Kelly returned safely to Earth after a 340 day mission aboard the International Space Station. Kelly, and his Russian counterpart Mikhail Kornienko, set the record for the longest amount of time spent in space during a single mission, by any astronaut, ever.

The mind and body are impacted significantly when exposed to high amounts of cosmic radiation and no gravity. The lack of gravity changes the way fluids are distributed in the body. The heart shrinks because it doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood into the lower extremities. There is also swelling in the head, which puts pressure on the optic nerve, leading to loss of vision.

No gravity also means bone loss and muscle degeneration because the legs aren’t needed for walking! Luckily there are exercises designed for the astronauts to combat the physical challenges.

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While Scott Kelly was busy in space, his twin brother Mark Kelly was busy on Earth being tested routinely. The twin brothers are participating in NASA’s parallel twin study to help scientists compare the effects of space on the body and mind at a cellular level. Understanding how space affects the body is the key to the advancement of space exploration beyond Earth’s orbit to Mars… and hopefully the future of humanity in space!

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In addition to the astronaut’s being a huge help in medical research, they also did a whole bunch of work managing technology demonstrations and making space station upgrades. Kelly went on a total of three space walks – the first involved ISS upgrade and maintenance tasks. On the second walk, he assisted in the reconfiguration of an ammonia cooling system and restoration of the station to full solar power-generating capability. On the third and final walk, he restored the functionality of the station’s Mobile Transporter system – the train that carries equipment along a railway around the ISS!

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Hurrah Scott Kelly! Thanks for helping us move forward in space-life science and exploration! Keep an eye out for his new book Endurance: My Year in Space and Our Journey to Mars in 2017.

Written by: Ona Rygelis, graphic recorder @ImageThink.