TGCC Chapter Program August 2018
From Here to Mars: How the Twins Study and the Year-long ISS Mission Have Moved Us Closer to the Red Planet.
The decision in 2012 by the partner agencies of the International Space Station program to undertake a year-long joint expedition to the ISS and the selection of astronaut Scott Kelly as the NASA crewmember for that mission set in play the Twins Study. This effort, with the voluntary participation of Scott Kelly and his identical twin brother Mark Kelly, allowed NASA to perform the most thorough controlled study of the effect of spaceflight on human physiology in history, integrated from the molecular level of the genomes up through the organ system level of the human brain. The strength of the degree of similarity between the subject in the experimental condition--the spaceflight environment--and his control subject under normal environmental conditions substantially offset the impact of the smallest of all possible subject counts: n=2. The process of bringing the year-long expedition and its Twins study component to their successful conclusion in 2016 provides a practical application of systems engineering to the problem of space life sciences research. The final report of the Twins investigators has been submitted for publication, but this presentation will review preliminary findings and indicate where future research can be employed profitably.
John B. Charles, Ph.D., retired from NASA on February 22, 2018, as Associate Director of NASA’s Human Research Program (HRP) for Exploration Research Planning, after nearly thirty-three years as a life sciences investigator and manager. From 2012 to 2016, he was Associate Manager for International Science, leading NASA’s space life sciences planning for the joint US/Russian one-year mission on ISS, including the Twins Study. From 2008 to 2012 and again from 2016 until November 2017, he was HRP’s Chief Scientist, assuring a balanced portfolio of funded research to resolve the greatest risks to humans on space expeditions.
John earned his B.S. in biophysics at The Ohio State University and his Ph.D. in physiology and biophysics at the University of Kentucky. He has been at the Johnson Space Center since 1983, first as a postdoctoral fellow, then as a civil servant. He co-developed the fluid-loading countermeasure to protect Shuttle astronauts from fainting during re-entry and landing, and investigated the cardiovascular effects of space flight using ultrasound, in-flight lower body negative pressure and re-entry data recording on the Shuttle and on the Russian space station Mir. He coordinated NASA’s biomedical, biological and microgravity investigations as Mission Scientist on Mir, on STS-95 (John Glenn’s Shuttle flight), and on STS-107 (Columbia’s last mission). He also represented the life sciences to NASA’s human Mars mission planning activities in the 1990s.
John is a Fellow of the Aerospace Medical Association (ASMA), of which he has been a member since 1983; he was the 2017-2018 President of its constituent Space Medicine Association. He is also a Full Member of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) and co-chaired the 18th IAA “Humans in Space Symposium” in Houston in 2011.
John published 75 scientific papers and space history articles and has received several professional awards, including the National Space Club and Foundation’s Eagle Manned Mission Award (2017), the Aerospace Medical Association’s “Joe Kerwin” (2011) and “Hubertus Strughold” (2001) Awards, and NASA’s Silver Snoopy (1989), Exceptional Service Medal (2000), Exceptional Achievement Medal (2014), and Distinguished Service Medal (2018).
John joined Space Center Houston on April 2 as the first “scientist in residence” with the goal of enhancing our guest experience by augmenting the human health and performance aspects of our exhibits, presentations and demonstrations. He is Adjunct Professor of Kinesiology at Texas A&M University and a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of StemRad Ltd., a company developing personal radiation protection garments. He and his wife Kathy own ACT4space, LLC, a private outreach, education, research, and consulting business.