Elon Musk’s New ISS Mission Will Explore Aging and How to Potentially Stop It

by Josh Lanier

Scientists hope to find a fountain of youth in space. Researchers from England hopped a ride aboard one of Elon Musk’s Falcon 9 rockets to study the aging process aboard the International Space Station.

Scientists from the University of Liverpool sent lab-grown muscle cells into space to study how we age. They chose to send the samples to the ISS because astronauts — like older people — lose muscle at faster rates. Researchers want to see if they can learn more about the aging process by speeding it up.

“Astronauts in microgravity lose their muscle mass and strength at an accelerated rate compared with older people on earth, providing a unique model to rapidly determine the mechanisms underlying muscle loss not only in astronauts but with relevance to older people on earth,” said Professor Anne McArdle, who’s working on the study.

Astronauts on the International Space Station will “exercise” the cells through electric stimulation. Other cells will get proteins that protect against deterioration. Scientists will compare those results against a control set to see if either helps slow down the aging process.

The researchers shipped the samples to the ISS on the final Space X mission of the year. In all, Elon Musk’s rocket company sent more than three tons of supplies and scientific materials to astronauts aboard the man-made celestial orbiter. Space X also sent a special Christmas meal to the seven members of the ISS.

Elon Musk Talks Future of Mars Colonization

Part of the reason Elon Musk got into the rocket business was to find a way to colonize Mars. The tech mogul is getting closer to that dream. Space X hopes to send a manned mission to the Red Planet within the next five years.

It’s the first step in Elon Musk’s plan to build a self-sustaining civilization on Mars. He sees the planet as an escape hatch for humans as life on Earth continues to become more precarious.

“I think Earth will be a good place for a long time, but the probable lifespan of human civilization will be much greater if we’re a multi-planetary species,” Musk said. “Ultimately, what I’m trying to achieve here is to make Mars seem possible, make it seem as though it’s something that we can do in our lifetimes.”

He hopes to build the first colony there “within our lifetimes.” But that’s just the first step. He explained his vision for the future for Mars during his Time magazine Person of the Year interview.

“And the next really big thing is to build a self-sustaining city on Mars and bring the animals and creatures of Earth there,” he said. “Sort of like a futuristic Noah’s ark. We’ll bring more than two, though—it’s a little weird if there’s only two.”

Though experts doubt Musk’s timetable is feasible.