La Jolla Phototravelers Club to host NASA ‘Twin Study’ speaker

Astronaut Scott Kelly along with his brother, former Astronaut Mark Kelly.

For more than 30 years, the La Jolla Phototravelers Club has met monthly to share photos and stories from faraway places, but this month’s meeting is taking things farther than they ever have — to space! The next speaker is Brinda Rana, Ph.D., associate professor at the Stein Institute for Research on Aging, UC San Diego School of Medicine, who will talk about NASA’s Twins Study. The Phototravelers Club will meet 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 17 at Wesley Palms retirement community, 2404 Loring St. in Pacific Beach.

The NASA Twins Study focuses on identical twin brothers Scott and Mark Kelly. Scott recently became the first U.S. astronaut to spend a year in space and landed home March 1, 2016; while Mark remained on Earth and served as “ground control” for the study. The research sheds light on the physical effects of space travel on the body (which some akin to accelerated aging) and will be the first of its kind to have such a direct comparison by using twins. According to NASA, the Twins Study is “a stepping stone toward long duration space exploration, such as journeys to Mars” and a published summary of the results is expected later this year.

Christa McReynolds, La Jolla Phototravelers member said the Twins Study talk is “very different from what we normally do, but we couldn’t pass up such a unique opportunity.”

She explained, “Our speaker was involved with the study before it began and when Scott Kelly landed after a year in space, she was there to take his vitals so she could compare them to his brother’s. It’s a unique situation and it’s wonderful to have someone who was intimately involved give a talk.”

Like most meetings, questions and comments are welcome following the talk. McReynolds said the group has been meeting since the 1980s (possibly the 1970s) at venues such as St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church and La Jolla United Methodist Church, but she got involved in 1995. “I gave a talk about a trip to Yemen I did and kept coming back,” she said. “I’m giving fewer talks now because I’m more focused on finding good speakers.”

A “good” speaker, she said, will have illustrative photos and insights into what the country is like historically, politically and culturally, and can provide travel tips. “We also ask that you include a map that puts the country you’re going to talk about into context, and say something new so our guests leave thinking ‘I didn’t know that before,’ ” she said. The talks typically last an hour and refreshments are served.

“I’m fortunate in that I’ve been to countries where you cannot safely go any more — Yemen, Libya, Syria — so I’m grateful that I got to go and I can share my photos and stories with people. Those who’ve had similar experiences or been to places that aren’t accessible anymore are welcome to speak,” she said.

McReynolds’ next talk will be about a hiking trip she took in Iceland. Those interested in making a presentation can e-mail McReynolds at