A Stepping Stone To Mars

Space, "the final frontier" is rough on the human body. Not being designed to "work" in zero gravity, the body's internals get messed up - and become more messed up the longer we stay in low or zero gravity. If we ever try to send humans to Mars, they will exposed to zero-G, cosmic radiation and all the rest of the final frontier's challenges for many many months. 

As a first serious step, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and his identical twin ex-astronaut David are participating in a year long experiment. Scott is spending a year on the International Space Station, while David will remain on Earth. In testing parlance, David is the "control".

Both will undergo similar testing and monitoring, and their physical and mental condition will be compared throughout the experiment to gauge the effects of extended time in space and how to compensate for them.
Kelly’s One-Year Mission represents a kind of dress rehearsal for a longer, straighter, and even more punishing voyage. In NASA’s Buzz Lightyear-esque formulation, it’s “a stepping stone” to “Mars and beyond.” At its closest, Mars is thirty-five million miles from Earth, and, under the most plausible scenario, getting there takes nine months. Owing to the relative motion of the planets, any astronauts who make it to Mars will have to cool their heels on the red planet for three more months before rocketing back home. What NASA learns about Kelly—at least, so the theory goes—will help it anticipate and overcome the challenges of interplanetary travel.

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