back to article Twin brothers. One went into space. The other didn't. NASA reveals how their bodies differ

As it prepares for interplanetary missions, NASA is offering a glimpse of its study of the effects of space on twins. Twins have intrigued scientists for millennia and have been used to study genetics, behavior, biology, and psychology, among other areas of research, for good and for ill. They provide an experimental subject …

  1. TRT Silver badge

    I read the Alzheimer's thing...

    But IPA stands for 3‑indolepropionic acid, not India Pale Ale? Oh. I'd better get back from the pub then.

    1. Jedit

      "I'd better get back from the pub then."

      Don't worry. Even when administered in sufficient quantities, IPA only simulates the effects of Alzheimers.

      (A pint of 3-indolepropionic acid, sir? Don't mind if I do.)

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: "I'd better get back from the pub then."

        Anything but IPA for me!

        To each their own.

  2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Other interesting areas for this are

    Bone loss and muscle loss.

    But more interesting is wheather or not all of the changes are reversible.

    Evidence so far in some areas (muscle fibres regrowing in an ordered fashion) suggests that some things are irreversible.

    Useful to know nonetheless.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Other interesting areas for this are

      Well, bone and muscle loss are likely due to atrophy-like effect. Human bodies were built to be under constant stress of gravity. Take that away, and stuff like that can naturally follow.

      What's needed now is some kind of artificial gravity effect like an O'Neil Cylinder to see if something like that can minimize the atrophy.

    2. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Other interesting areas for this are

      Also important are vision changes. Astronauts are having pretty bad vision loss that sometimes doesn't recover after landing.

      They've sort of found the cerebrospinal fluid amount increases ('cuz zero-g) and presses the eyeball out-of-round. Kinda sorta. It's mostly a "best guess" at the moment. It's a pretty hot topic of course, and they're doing all sorts of tests to confirm/refute/etc but most of the important eye test equipment they want to use is 1000lbs and works only in 1g :-( so they're having to wing it.

  3. lglethal Silver badge

    "who are identical twins, but for a mustache.

    And we all know the 'Tasche makes all the difference in the world...

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      And I'm sure they've never switched who shaves just to mess with people... Nope. Not ever.

    2. asdf Silver badge

      Knight Rider reference required

      >and we all know the 'Tasche makes all the difference in the world...

      Yes it does.

      1. Graham Marsden

        Everyone knows...

        ... you need a Goatee beard to be a proper Evil Twin!

        1. asdf Silver badge

          Re: Everyone knows...

          Lol wow learn something every day. I always thought that meme (worrd is so ruined these days) started with Knight Rider but dates me well I guess (as well as someone who remembers SNL making fun of trekkies much more than one or two original series episodes I ever saw). Sadly I do remember TJ Hooker a bit better due to the whole only 3 channels back in the day.

  4. Anonymous Coward Silver badge


    "may be a consequence of increased exercise and decreased caloric intake"

    So they didn't they give the control subject the same exercise and nutrition as the space-farer?

    It's simple to measure the effect of that on earth to give a comparison, so reduce the factors in play for this experiment to get more meaningful results. Eliminate as many variables as possible.

    And I thought NASA scientists were generally smart.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Seriously?

      It's infallibly true that no matter the topic or forum, some commentard will presume that in the ten seconds they've considered the matter they've found a fundamental truth that eluded researchers in the field acrid years of study. Sometimes this will be attributed to conspiracy, other times (as here) to stupidity.

      Anyway one conspicuous problem for providing a matching exercise regime is gravity - even if earth-bound-brother does the same overt exercises he's doing a lot more muscle work both during them and in daily life. As for diet, perhaps he declined to volunteer to eat crap foods for a year? If you're really curious you could read the papers as they come out, or contract the researchers to discuss the protocols, etc. But its certainly easier to pour a cup of AC piss overt them from your keyboard...

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. DocJames

        Re: Seriously?

        Yeah I don't think they can match for exercise.

        But not matching for food is a bit embarrassing. OK it would be asking a fair bit from a research subject (human subject - has to be voluntary, no rewards that could be inducements), but some people *pay* for Solyent: not everyone has the same interests.

        Icon for what I would miss.

        1. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: Seriously?

          Since you can't match for exercise you automatically can't match for food. A person trapped in earths crushing gravity well simply needs a different calloric intake simply because of the amount of extra energy expenditure required through a day. Matching food intake exactly would probably mean the earthbound person loses weight. And probably a lot of it. (Even breathing takes more effort on earth due to the pull of gravity on the innards of the body and the different composition of the atmosphere)

          I suspect this was all thought off by the researchers and they decided to ignore these effects due to impracticality or impossibility. These people are not exactly stupid and experiments like this don't happen overnight because someone thought it might be a good idea late one evening out drinking with his buddies.

          1. asdf Silver badge

            Re: Seriously?

            >A person trapped in earths crushing gravity well simply needs a different calloric intake simply because of the amount of extra energy expenditure required through a day.

            And even on the surface of earth it varies greatly. For example Robert Scott's South Pole party basically starved to death because they underestimated the caloric needs in that climate hauling a sledge (Amundsen avoided that fate by bringing lots of dogs which he killed some and ate and even fed to other dogs, smart after all having your food carry itself if you can stomach it).

      3. PNGuinn

        Re: Seriously?

        Well, he could have spent the year in the Vomit Comet as a control .....

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Seriously?

      Maybe that is the experiment? A human in space will have no say over the food or the exercise (within reason) they can have. A human on earth can have that flexibility. Therefore, if the experiment is to show the effects of living in the confines and practicalities of space then the lifestyle is part of that (assuming twin 1 would be normally similar in diet and activity to twin 2 while on earth).

      AFAIK this wasn't an anti-gravity experiment, it was a comparison to living on earth and in space and everything that entails.

  5. SkippyBing Silver badge

    'These people are not exactly stupid and experiments like this don't happen overnight because someone thought it might be a good idea late one evening out drinking with his buddies.'

    So you're saying I don't have a future as a research scientist?

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Nope, not what I'm saying. It's only specifically experiments like "this" that don't get formed that way. Plenty of good science (or atleast plenty of good laughs) have come from "Here, hold my beer" and "Hey, you know what we should do?"

  6. Hollerithevo Silver badge

    Did they test them for telepathic powers?

    Heinlein would have demanded it.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Did they test them for telepathic powers?

      Heinlein would have demanded it.

      So would Hugh Walters a few years later :)

      Sadly very difficult to find those books these days. Well overdue for a reprint methinks.

      Great titles for books. Mission to Mercury, Journey to Jupiter, Spaceship to Saturn, Nearly Neptune, Passage to Pluto. And of course the unpublished work Up Uranus.

      1. Black Rat

        Re: Did they test them for telepathic powers?

        Seeing science fiction become fact does bring a smug grin to this old space pirate's face.

        FYI: if you burn your jets hard you may catch the 'Bishop' over at the bushcraftuk forum who is currently unloading a scifi book collection. He's had it hidden under his server room floor for twenty years so lots of gems with the really rare ones destined for the Imperial College scifi library in London.

      2. Solarflare

        Re: Did they test them for telepathic powers?

        "And of course the unpublished work Up Uranus."

        Ah, that one was firmly blocked by his publisher, who also happened to be his wife. Apparently she wouldn't entertain it at all.

      3. Hollerithevo Silver badge

        Re: Did they test them for telepathic powers?

        Thanks for the link!!

    2. Ralph B

      Re: Did they test them for telepathic powers?

      And did they test for midi-chlorians?

  7. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    "They provide an experimental subject and a control subject, such that biological differences between the two are minimized."

    Only if they grow up in the same environment. Epigenetics and all that.

    Also, growing or not growing a 'stache, obviously...

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Not even that guarantees things. Some identical twins, living together in the same house and so on, diverged on sexual orientation. This raises plenty of questions on the whole "nature vs. nurture" debate since it suggests neither are key factors and suggests a possible "wild card" factor that can't easily be isolated.

      PS. As for the one not having a 'stache, one of them probably shaves.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Depends what you mean by nature and nurture.

        There are strongly held views that (at least for males) epigenetics are key, in which case that could still be either, but really leans towards nature, especially given the generally identified probabilities based on number of carried male foetuses.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          But I think several of the divergent twins were female.

  8. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    A bit miffed?

    I would expect one of the brothers to be a bit miffed - "Congratulations, NASA have selected you and your brother for a very important mission - he gets to go to space, you get to sit on your bum on Earth"

    1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

      Re: A bit miffed?

      Probably not much. Mark Kelly retired from NASA in 2011 at least in part to care for his wife Gabrielle Giffords, then a Congressional Representative, who was grievously wounded in an attempted assassination.

  9. roger 8

    As one spent a year traveling faster than the other. is he now younger?

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      In terms of (milli)seconds "uptime" from birth, yes.

  10. Loud Speaker


    I love how a sample of one pair is considered statistically meaningful. This is non-science at its best!

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Statistyx

      While it may not be statistically meaningful, it's a start. Twins in a space program are awfully hard to find. Besides.. any breakthrough is science is usually one event/test that ends up with "Hey.. this is strange." The rest flows from there.

  11. adam 40

    His moustache fell off!!!

    Must be due to the cosmic rays or something.

    Glad I don't have to work in space.

  12. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Identical, except one is full of jealously and one went to space !!!!

  13. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    They should have corrected for the presence of the moustache!!

    I bet it strains out a certain amount of vegetable intake for the affected brother, especially if soup is involved.

  14. Champ

    But which is which in the photo?

    The one without the mustache looks younger and happier.

    The text implies that this is Scott ("Scott Kelly and Mark Kelly, who are identical twins, but for a mustache"), but is not definitive.

    I think we should be told

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