NASA presented some preliminary findings from their Twins Study earlier this year. A complete paper from this study is to be released later this year. For those who are not familiar with this study, this is the first and only study done on twin astronauts comparing the one who spent 340 days in space (Scott Kelly) with his brother (Mark Kelly) who spent the same time on earth, to try to understand genetic changes due to long term space travel. The twins had identical genes when the experiment started. They found that the person who had lived in space went through some genetic mutations during his time in space, and that some changes in gene expression (which apparently is not the same as genetic changes) seem to be long lasting.
Our living environment deeply impacts what we are as a species inhabiting the Universe. We are shaped by where we exist in the universe, and there is some kind of a process that causes us to develop in a certain manner in different environments. Scott Kelly spent less than a year in Space before the changes in his body manifested themselves. Consider the near certainty that the magnitude of the differences caused in species because of where we exist in the universe likely outweighs our differences due to our existences in different places and in different circumstances on this earth itself. Why then are we bent on focusing on and exploiting our own relatively minor differences? And do we really think we are the superior species?
I watched a video of the latest SpaceX Mission this morning.
A few thoughts occur to me after viewing the video. Major innovations have taken place even in the last 20 or 30 years in space travel. The Space Shuttle has vanished into history and is being replaced by a family of new and much more advanced and smarter technologies. The term “nimble” comes to mind when I think of the cost points and the efficiency of the systems being designed. At this point SpaceX can even recover the first stage of their rockets for reuse by landing them vertically on a landing pad! This would have sounded like science fiction even a few years ago. Other players are also basing their designs on the principle of launch vehicles that are reusable.
A lot of the new technology is being developed by private organizations and not the government. These efforts include SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, etc.. Hats off to the folks with the vision to invest their own money for further advancements in space.
While watching the video it struck me that all the narrators were dressed quite casually. These folks appear to be people in the mission team with significant responsibilities. While the culture of casual attire at work is now common in the tech industry, I would have never have imagined something like this in a area of technology as serious as space travel. I do not know if what we are seeing in the video was a careful decision made just for the camera, or if this really represents the work culture in an advanced technology environment like that at SpaceX.