As he spends about a year circling the Earth on the International Space Station, Astronaut Scott Kelly, who's being accompanied on that long stay by cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, is undergoing a series of omic-related tests, Space.com reports.
While Scott Kelly is taking those tests in space — along with some pre- and post-flight tests — his Earth-bound twin brother Mark, who is also an astronaut, is also taking them. The hope is that by studying the brothers, researchers will be able to gauge how spaceflight affects the body.
"We want to try to interpret what's going on with [these astronauts] biologically as they go into spaceflight, which is extremely taxing," Stanford University's Mike Snyder tells Space.com. "We want to see what kinds of changes occur at a level that's never been done [in astronauts] before."
John Charles, the associate manager for international collaborations of NASA's human research program, adds that he hopes this is only the start of studies combining genomics and space.
"[The twins study] is not a solution, this is a demonstration," he says. "We're not going to get conclusive answers, but we're looking for those areas where the answers are unexpected — to give us a direction to go on future research."