Questions for “Space travel may harm health by damaging cells’ powerhouses”

a photo of Scott Kelly on a spacewalk a

After a year in space, astronaut Scott Kelly (seen here on a spacewalk in December 2015) experienced changes in his mitochondria — energy-producing structures in cells — a new study finds.


To accompany “Space travel may harm health by damaging cells’ powerhouses


Before Reading:

1.  Lots that can go wrong on flights into space. Name at least three things you could imagine going wrong.

2.  In a recent NASA study, one astronaut twin went into space for almost a year as his identical twin (also an astronaut) remained on the ground. What do you suppose NASA hoped to learn from such a study?

During Reading:

1.  What did Afshin Beheshti’s team want to explore in its new study?

2.  What is NASA GeneLab?

3.  What are mitochondria?

4.  What four classes of chemicals did Beheshti’s group examine for its new study?

5.  What type of changes did the researchers discover in their examination of the blood and urine from astronauts?   

6.  What new hypothesis has Beheshti’s team come to now that it’s reviewed all of those data? What points to their hypothesis being a strong one?

7.  Based on what these researchers learned, what type of drug treatment might be therapeutic for astronauts on long, deep-space journeys?

After Reading:

1.  NASA is looking for new cadres of astronauts, especially ones who might be able to take part in missions to Mars. How long would such a mission last? What additional risks besides the ones mentioned in this story might Mars pioneers face? Does this sound like a cool career option for you? Explain your answer.

2.  The newest branch of the U.S. military is its Space Force. Investigate the mission of this new agency, what its role will be and what it will ask of its service members. Based on what you learn, are most members of this agency likely to encounter the risks being explored in the story you just read? Why or why not?