5 Things You Didn’t Know About Astronaut Shane Kimbrough!

After years of training NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough is launching to the International Space Station on Wednesday, so there’s not much left to say, right?  Wrong!  Here are five secrets about his past that the Texas native and retired Army officer hasn’t told us, until now.

1. Shane went to elementary school in Germany

But his family returned to the U.S. where he attended middle and high school.

2. Life is Smyrna, Georgia 

Shane attended middle and high school in the Atlanta suburb of Smyrna with movie star Julia Roberts!

3. Shane had an accomplished military career

A retired Army colonel, Shane graduated from West Point, after which he became an Army aviator. He later became a jumpmaster and has had a long and distinguished military career.

Read his bio.

4. He loves sports. All sports!

He LOVES playing, coaching and watching sports. Watching college football is one of the things he’ll miss while he’s on the station.

5. Leading the future

His passion for teaching is one that he finds “most rewarding.”

Follow Shane on the station at @astro_kimbrough.

Learn more about missions to the International Space Station HERE.

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What would it take to survive in space?

Prolonged space travel takes a severe toll on the human body. As we seriously consider the human species becoming space-faring, a big question stands. Even if we break free from Earth’s orbit and embark on long-duration journeys among the stars, can we adapt to the extreme environments of space?

Without an atmospheric barrier and a magnetic field like Earth’s, most planets and moons are bombarded with dangerous subatomic particles, like ionizing radiation. 

These particles can pass through nearly anything and would cause potentially cancerous DNA damage to space explorers. So, to survive as a species during space travel, we’d have to develop methods to quickly program protective abilities into ourselves. A beta version of these methods is gene therapy, which we can currently use to correct genetic diseases.

Now, what if we could turn the tables on radiation? Human skin produces a pigment called melanin that protects us from the filtered radiation on Earth.

Melanin exists in many forms across species, and some melanin-expressing fungi use the pigment to convert radiation into chemical energy. Instead of trying to shield the human body, or rapidly repair damage, we could potentially engineer humans to adopt and express these fungal, melanin-based energy-harvesting systems. They’d then convert radiation into useful energy while protecting our DNA. This sounds pretty sci-fi, but may actually be achievable with current technology.

Check out what else scientists have up their sleeves in the TED-Ed Lesson Could we survive prolonged space travel? - Lisa Nip

Animation by Bassam Kurdali