ISS News: March 2015 Archives

Finding gene activity differences in identical twins, Ars Technica

"They're called identical twins because their genomes are identical. But even though all of their DNA is the same, they clearly are not. The environment must play a role in how identical twins and everyone else uses their genes to become who they are."

One if by Land, Two if by Space: Astronaut Twins Tantalize Human Research Possibilities in Spaceflight, NASA

"A multitude of human research investigations currently are underway and are scheduled for upcoming expeditions aboard the space station by NASA and its international partners. The opportunity to compare the effects of spaceflight accumulated over one year and observe changes in the genetic makeup between twin brothers is new. These investigations could have lasting implications for protecting astronauts on deep space exploration missions, including travel to asteroids and Mars."

Keith's note: NASA has spent a lot of time hyping the whole twins thing. It is important to note that "identical" twins are not identical. Just take that face-to-face photo of the Kelly twins (larger view), flip one image, superimpose it on the other, align for facial features and look what you get: altered skull shape (ergo brain shape) and ear shape and placement. But they are identical - how did that happen? Hmm. Prenatal environment is likely the prime factor but other things during their early lives could be at work as well. To be certain the Kelly twins are vastly more alike at the genetic level than this crude photo comparison might suggest. But they are not identical - and they become less identical with every passing day.

Keith's note: Why is NASA saying that this is going to be a year-long mission? It is not. Close - but not a year. NASA goes out of their way to use simple math on Twitter to make their #YearInSpace point - but - that math also easily shows that Kelly is only going to be in space for 342 days. A year is 365 days long. I guess its too much to ask for NASA to be accurate on Twitter as it simultaneously hypes all of this STEM education stuff. Its not as if any of the 9 million Twitter followers are actually paying attention. Or are they?

Reader (Max Fagin) comment: "And actually, since the ISS will be going through two high-beta periods in the next 342 days (one in late Dec 2015, and one in early June 2016) there won't even be that many sunsets. In the 342 day period starting with the last Soyuz launch, the ISS will only see 10,372 sun-rise/set pairs." Click on image to enlarge.

Reader (Max Fagin) correction: "High-Beta periods are June and December of THIS YEAR (not 2016). And if you define a sunset/rise cycle as a complete eclipse (rather than just anytime the sun contacts the horizon), the number falls to 10356."


Keith's update: Unlike a certain space agency, Max is quick to clarify and update inaccurate data.

Scenic Descent For Expedition 42

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 11 March 2015

"Expedition 42 Commander Barry Wilmore of NASA, and Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova of the Russian Federal Space Agency landed their Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft in Kazakhstan at approximately 10:07 p.m. EDT. Russian recovery teams are helping the crew exit the Soyuz vehicle and adjust to gravity after their stay in space."

A new space race emerges as NASA prepares to award contract to ferry supplies to space station, Washington Post

"Lugging groceries and supplies to the astronauts on the International Space Station may not be as cool as ferrying the astronauts themselves into orbit. But the NASA contract to fly cargo to the station in unmanned rocket ships has attracted bids from high-profile companies in what analysts say is another indication of commercial spaceflight's recent renaissance. It appears that at least five space firms have submitted proposals for the work, including giants such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin, which didn't bother to bid on the work the last time. In a new sort of space race, the contract has touched off an intense competition between stalwart defense contractors and new space start-ups that have, in just a few years, shown they can compete."

Culberson Statement on NASA Budget Hearing

"Administrator Bolden made it clear in his answers that the Obama Administration has no contingency plan in place to send U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station if Russia chooses to end the current agreement that allows our astronauts to travel to the space station on board its Soyuz capsules."

NASA's chief confirms it: Without Russia, space station lost, Houston Chronicle

'If Russia stops flying U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station, the U.S., lacking a backup plan, would have no choice but to abandon the multibillion dollar outpost to its own fate, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said Wednesday. "We would make an orderly evacuation," Bolden said during a U.S. House Appropriations subcommittee hearing."

Keith's note: Culberson is not exaggerating. When asked, Bolden could not give a 'yes' or 'no' answer to rather specific and repeated questions as to whether or not NASA has a post-Russia ISS contingency plan in place. Bolden stumbled for a bit before he started to talk about an orderly evacuation of the ISS. Culberson interrupted at one point and said "please tell me that you do". Bolden also seemed to suggest that the U.S. can operate the ISS without Russian permission/cooperation.

A Waste Of Space, Scientific American

"More likely, Kelly's and Kornienko's tests will just confirm in greater detail what we already know from several previous long-duration missions: Our current space habitats are not adequate for voyages to other worlds. The lack of money to build these habitats, more than any lack of medical knowledge, is what keeps humans from Mars and other off-world destinations. ... It would be unfair to blame NASA alone for this shortsightedness. Integrating artificial gravity and better propulsion into its human spaceflight program would require many billions of dollars, and that money is not forthcoming from Congress. So NASA has struck a pragmatic course, tinkering with well-worn technologies instead of spending the financial and political capital to develop new ones."

Keith's note: Will NASA learn anything from the one year space twins study? Yes, of course they will. Will this knowledge help us "go to Mars"? (gotta use that phrase once a day, right NASA?). Who knows. Not likely. The studies are superficial and scattered in their focus. As this article notes NASA will, at best, simply understand their collective lack of capability to semi-safely send humans to Mars slightly better. Meanwhile, NASA will still kick the can down the road to Mars (I used the Mars meme twice, NASA!). NASA does not have the money or the scientific strategy to actually answer the questions it needs to answer. So they grab everything they can slap a Mars label on it and proclaim progress on the road to Mars (three times!).

As was the case with John Glenn's mission to solve aging problems in space we will never see the results of this research - in any form - that NASA uses to justify the hype surrounding this otherwise ho hum stay aboard ISS. And we will still be in Earth - not Mars - orbit. And the news media will still be confused which twin has the moustache.

The ISS still has an amazing untapped potential to actually address these very real issues of human physiology and long duration spaceflight with direct applicability to Mars. But NASA is simply not up to the task of using these resources in a concerted, strategic, long-term fashion - and assembling the resources to do so. They just make it up as they go. And their poorly equipped junior partner CASIS is simply clueless.

- NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly Available for Interviews before One-Year Space Station Mission
- Correcting NASA's Inaccurate Budget Infographic, earlier post

Reader note: "FYI I tried to reach CASIS by phone. When you call their CASIS Corporate Headquarters listed here i.e. 321.253.5101 and hit 3 for "Contracts" you get a dead end. Your call is eventually disconnected.

Another Vulcan on ISS

Keith's update: Wow. Mike and I got retweeted from orbit. How cool.

Keith's note: In space Samantha Cristoforetti honors Leonard Nimoy/Spock by continuing the Vulcan science officer tradition on ISS. Altered imagery by Michael Okuda.

Years ago, when John Grunsfeld left NASA headquarters, Mike Okuda made a "vulcanized" version of John. Everyone loved it - including (so it would seem) the Smithsonian's National Air & Space Museum. For a number for years, there was a copy of this faux picture adjacent to Hubble instruments on display that John had helped to bring back to Earth. It took quite some time for the Smithsonian to notice the details in the photos. Oops.

Astronauts Complete Third International Space Station Spacewalk in Eight Days [With Video]

"Outside the International Space Station, Expedition 42 Commander Barry Wilmore and Flight Engineer Terry Virts of NASA conducted their third spacewalk in eight days March 1 to install antennas and communications gear that will be used to provide rendezvous and navigational information to visiting vehicles approaching the complex in the future, including the new U.S. commercial crew vehicles."



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This page is an archive of entries in the ISS News category from March 2015.

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