Outline - One-Year Expedition to ISS
Scot Kelly is a former Captain in the U.S. Navy and also has an engineering background in aviation systems. As part of his career in the military, Kelly worked as a test pilot and logged over 8,000 flying hours. After his selection by NASA, Kelly served as a Pilot on Space Shuttle Discovery on mission STS-103 to the Hubble Space Telescope in 1999. His second flight was as a commander aboard Shuttle Endeavour for mission STS-118 that delivered the S5 truss to ISS. Launching on Soyuz, Kelly made his first long-duration mission to ISS as part of Expedition 25/26 in 2010/11. Overall, he logged 180 days in space as part of his three missions.
The space environment, characterized by microgravity and increased radiation exposure, has an effect on almost all bodily systems including physiological and psychological aspects. Typically, the physiological impacts of prolonged exposure to the space environment can be compared with an accelerated aging process – typical symptoms are a loss of muscle and bone mass, degradation of the cardiovascular and neurovestibular systems, and a significant degradation of the immune system. Balance disorders and behavioral changes are also observed in humans undergoing long-duration space missions.
For a six-month exposure to the space environment, abundant data is available through the previous Expeditions to ISS, Mir and the Salyut space stations, but crossing that threshold, only a handful of humans have ever undergone data gathering during a one-year flight. It is of great interest to see what happens between six and twelve months to extrapolate potential effects that even longer missions would have.
Utilizing the two available seats up on Soyuz TMA-18M and down on TMA-16M are singer Sarah Brightman, a space tourist flying a Space Adventures mission, and Andreas Mogensen, an ESA Astronaut conducting a short-duration science flight. The direct handover will last for ten days with nine people aboard ISS. Kornienko and Kelly will swap their Kazbek Seat Liners with Brightman and Mogensen to make the Soyuz switch official before Gennady Padalka takes the two short-duration fliers on their trip home on September 11.
Volkov, Kornienko and Kelly are expected to stay aboard ISS until March 3, 2016 for a flight duration of 184 days for Volkov and 342 days for Kornienko and Kelly.
Year In Space - Science
The data to assess and analyze physiological and psychological effects of the spaceflight environment beyond that six-month threshold will be gathered through the standard ISS research program which for Kelly and Kornienko will include a series of established experiments that have been in progress for years aboard ISS as well as a number of newly developed studies. 17 studies have been identified to be of particular importance for the one-year mission:
The tests include a Sit-to-Stand Test, the Recovery from Fall Test (standing up from a prone position and remaining upright for three minutes), balancing while standing on both feet for several minutes, stepping over obstacles and the Tandem Walk Test (walking ten steps heel-to-toe with eyes closed). During all tests, cardiovascular and other parameters are measured to quantify the performance of the crew members before and after flight.
The functional tests include a Seat Egress and short-distance walk around obstacles, the recovery from fall and stand, transporting and manipulating objects, generating torque to open a hatch, climbing a ladder, a standard EVA training task, and jumping exercises to simulate the jump down from landing vehicles. Physiological measurements include plasma volume determination, fine motor control tests, Posturography, muscle performance tests and treadmill locomotion (walking on a treadmill combined with a vision test).
The testing operation consists of a sleep questionnaire and subjective evaluations at the beginning followed by the ten tests that focus on: sensor-motor ability, visual object learning and memory, attention and working memory, abstraction, spatial orientation, emotion recognition, abstract reasoning, complex scanning & visual tracking, risk decision making, and vigilant attention and psychomotor speed.
Neuromapping, or Spaceflight Effects on Neurocognitive Performance: Extent, Longevity, and Neural Bases, determines whether long-duration spaceflight causes changes to the brain, including brain structure & function, motor control and multi tasking – also determining how long it takes for the brain to recover from possible changes once the flight is over. Previous missions indicate the movement control and cognition are affected in microgravity.
Neuromapping will use functional magnetic resonance brain imaging (fMRI) to asses any changes to the crew members’ brains comparing before and after scans. Behavioral and sensorimotor assessments are used to assess changes in perception, motor control, memory, attention and executive function. The overall goal of the experiment is to identify the neural mechanisms and operational risks of spaceflight-induced changes in behavior, and the characterization of the re-adaption process to the gravitational environment associated with the assessment of post-flight changes in brain structure.
Pre- and post-flight evaluations are comprised of card rotation (pencil & paper exercise consisting of mentally rotating target shapes to indicate whether they are the same or different from target shapes), mental rotation (memorizing a 3D object and matching it to a re-oriented 3D cube assemblage), Rod & Frame Test (aligning a rod to vertical within a tilted frame), digit-symbol substitution (decoding shapes into numbers using a presented key), functional mobility test (obstacle course on foam surface), bimanunal motor control (placing 25 keyed pegs into their slots using both hands while seated), Vestibular Evoked Myogenic Potential Test, Vestibular contribution to Postural Stability (maintaining balance on a sway-referenced support with eyes closed).
Pre & post-flight Neuroimaging includes structural MRI scans, Functional MRI during different tasks (sensorimotor adaption tasks, spatial working memory tasks, dual tasking), Resting state functional connectivity MRI & Diffusion weighted imaging. Inflight testing includes: Mental Rotation, Sensorimotor adaptation, and dual tasking exercises – all using a computer-based assessment tool.
Sleep-Wake Actigraphy and Light Exposure on ISS studies whether inappropriately timed lighting or sleep shifting can result in circadian misalignment during spaceflight leading to a reduced sleep quality and daytime fatigue in crew members. Previous data shows that crew members experience a circadian misalignment and sleep deficiency during 6-month missions.
The ISS-12 experiment monitors the ambient light exposure and crew member activity and collects data on the subjective evaluation of sleep and alertness. Ambient light and activity are monitored via a wrist-worn actiwatch that delivers actiwatch spectrums that are put through bio-mathematical models of sleep and light to predict circadian phase. Sleep logs will be kept by crew members as a subjective assessment of sleep quality and duration. It is hoped that this investigation can deliver requirements for lighting, sleep-shifting protocols and workloads for future space exploration missions.
The Reaction Self Test is one of the oldest studies ongoing aboard ISS, consisting of morning and evening sessions with a computer-based vigilance test performed prior to, during and after flight at different frequencies as required by the study. The sessions consist of short five-minute tests that provide an objective feedback of a crew member’s vigilance and allows an assessment of performance capability. Test sessions are also performed around sleep shifts and periods of particular tasks such as visiting vehicle support and EVAs.
"The purpose of this study is to collect evidence to characterize the risk and define the visual changes and central nervous system (CNS) changes observed during a six month exposure to microgravity including postflight time course for recovery to baseline. This study will gather information that can be used to assess the risk of Microgravity-Induced Visual Impairment/Intracranial Pressure (VIIP) and guide future research needs," the experiment overview notes.
The Biochemical Profiles study obtains blood and urine samples from long-duration space travelers before, during and after space flight to monitor specific proteins and chemicals that act as biomarkers and allow an assessment of particular biological, biochemical, biophysical processes that affect the health of a human. Conducting frequent sampling allows for the generation of a database of samples and test results which allows scientists to study the effects of spaceflight on the physiology of humans and it also allows an assessment of countermeasures associated with exercise and nutrition. The experiment consists of eight in-flight sessions comprised of a fasting blood draw and 24-hour urine collection. Body mass measurements on a monthly basis are also evaluated as part of the study.
Cardio Ox, going by the full name of Defining the Relation Between Biomarkers of Oxidative and Inflammatory Stress and Atherosclerosis Risk in Astronauts During and After Long-duration Spaceflight, aims to determine whether biological markers of oxidative and inflammatory stress are elevated during and after prolonged exposure to the space environment and whether this presents additional risks of atherosclerosis. Oxidative and inflammatory damage can be the result of increased radiation, psychological stress, reduced physical activity, diminished nutritional standards and hyperoxic/hypoxic exposure. The study monitors biomarkers in urine and blood samples; arterial structure and function is tracked via ultrasounds and the measurement of carotid intima-medial thickness and brachial artery flow-mediated dilation is made for up to five years after landing to track long-term changes for prediction of atherosclerosis
The Integrated Immune study has the goal of assessing the clinical risks that come with the adverse effects of the spaceflight environment on the human immune system, implementing an immune monitoring strategy compatible with measurements in space. Blood, saliva and urine samples are collected before, after and during the flight to measure blood cell count, and stress hormones. Integrated Immune also looks at specific latent virus reactivation that is known to occur during space flight.
Sprint, a study in progress since 2011, has a full name of Integrated Resistance and Aerobic Training Study. It evaluates a high-intensity, low-volume exercise protocol to minimize the loss of muscle, bone and cardiovascular function but also minimizing the time spent with daily exercise.
A study that began during Expedition 35/36 is called Microbiome with its full name: Study of the Impact of Long-Term Space Travel on the Astronauts' Microbiome. The study will investigate the impact of long duration space flight on both, the human immune system and an individual's microbiome. The microbiome is the totality of microbes that live in and on the human body at any given time and influence human physiology. Some consider the microbiome to be a "newly discovered organ" due to its importance for human physiology. In fact, there are about 10 times more microbial cells than human cells in and on the human body, but the microbiome only accounts for about 200 grams.
The study involves extensive sample collection from subjects. Crew members will undergo sampling before, during and after their flight to ISS. Samples include nasal and oral samples, skin swabs and optional gastrointestinal samples. These will be taken from a total of nine astronauts before flight, around flight day 7 and 90 and at return minus 14 days as well as post flight. In addition, ISS surface samples are taken to better understand the microbial environment the crew members are subjected to.
Fine Motor Skills uses a tablet touchscreen application to monitor degradation in fine motor abilities over the course of an extended exposure to microgravity. A drop in fine motor skills can lead to problems when crew members are tasked with medical treatment, repairing sensitive equipment and interacting with touch-based equipment. Tests utilized by this study include multidirectional pointing, dragging, shape tracing, and object manipulation to create a knowledgebase that will allow scientists to evaluate the risk of fine motor performance decrements due to long-duration exposure to microgravity. Sessions are initially performed every five days for the first 120 days of flight before being performed only every ten days. Pre and post-flight sessions are also performed. Each session consists of the four tasks mentioned above and takes about 15 minutes to complete.
Assessment of International Space Station Vehicle Habitability will see teams on the ground study video of the behavior of crew members within the habitable environment of ISS while the crew fills out questionnaires and collects video of areas of interest in order to provide an assessment of the habitability of ISS in its current state for a one-year mission. Results will be used to develop spacecraft with improved habitability properties to allow crew members to optimally utilize the onboard space.
Effects of Long-Duration Spaceflight on Training Retention will study the feasibility of on-orbit training refreshers by completing tasks at different points in the mission to assess the retention and transfer of specific technical content learned pre-launch.
One of the unique aspects of Scott Kelly’s mission is the concurrent study of his twin brother Mark who will remain on the ground. Although Mark has retired from the Astronaut Office, he agreed to participate in this unique, once-in-a-space-program study.
Because Mark will be able to go about his normal business on Earth and not experience the same environment Scott will be experiencing, the twin study is considered observational in nature without any defined outcomes and objectives – it is considered a welcome opportunity to compare data collected from genetically similar astronauts to observe the human effects of spaceflight.
Data acquisition from the twins will include regular sampling activities of blood, saliva, swabs and stool as well as physical and psychological tests. A total of ten different studies were chosen for the twins:
- Metabolomic and Genomic Markers of Atherosclerosis as Related to Oxidative Stress, Inflammation, and Vascular Function in Twin Astronauts [This study looks at the effects of long-duration space flight on the cardiovascular system, investigating the relationship between gene expression, metabolomic profiles, biomarkers in blood and urine, and arterial structure and function. The experiment includes concurrent sample acquisition and exams from both twins – vascular function exam (ultrasounds of blood vessel function), blood & urine sampling at Launch minus 180 and 45 days, during the flight at +15, +60, +180, +240. +300 and Return-15 days, and three days after the return.]
- Cognition on Monozygotic Twin on Earth [This study focuses on behavioral health to characterize the effects a prolonged exposure to the space environment, the confined quarters of ISS and other environmental properties have on the perception and reasoning, decision making and alertness. The study includes questionnaires and behavioral tests performed before, during & after the flight.]
Metagenomic Sequencing of the Microbiome
The study will utilize blood sampling pre-flight as reference, during flight to asses short-term changes and for a lengthy post-flight period to look at long-term effects.]
- Comprehensive Whole Genome Analysis of Differential Epigenetic Effects of Space Travel on Monozygotic Twins [First, this study aims to compare the extent of DNA methylation between the two twins. Methylation, the addition of a methyl group to cystine or adenine DNA nucleotides, is one of the significant drivers in gene mutation and can be caused by external factors. This study tries to acquire samples at pre-determined intervals and based on unexpected exposures such as radiation events, or spacecraft contamination to link methylation to these spaceflight-related factors. Secondly, the study aims to assess whether effects seen in the space-flown twin are transient or long-lived. It will also be assessed whether mutations arise secondarily to epigenetic changes. Blood collection will take place at L-90, L-75, L+1, L+45, L+190, L+223, L+350 and R+90.]
- Biochemical Profile: Homozygous Twin control for a 12 month Space Flight Exposure [This study includes monitoring a range of biochemical parameters through blood and urine samples obtained from both twins. These parameters will reflect nutritional and physiological variables that may be altered as a result of the spaceflight experience and related nutritional changes, stress, microgravity and radiation. Data from this study will be able to improve the understanding of the role of the diet in the different biological systems. Blood and urine collection is performed at L-180, L-45, L-10, L+15, L+30, L+60, L+120, L+150, L+180, L+240, L+300, L+360, R+0 and R+30 days.]
- The Landscape of DNA and RNA Methylation Before, During, and After Human Space Travel [This study aims to uncover the genetic networks and expression patterns activated in the space environment, trace clonality of epigenetic changes and examine the extent of methylation of RNA. DNA methylation changes will be observed across the genome and a catalog of coding and noncoding RNAs will be observed to generate a transcriptome-wide map of RNA methylation sites. This will provide insight into potential mutation sites and associated consequences for long-duration space travelers.]