MAR 27, 2015 10:50 AM PDT

Year-long Space Visit Provides Unique Research Opportunity

WRITTEN BY: Will Hector
When Scott J. Kelly goes up to the International Space Station - he and two Russian astronauts are scheduled to launch on Friday - he will not come back down again for a year.

That year is to be the longest space mission a NASA astronaut has ever undertaken. This trip - Mr. Kelly's fourth to space - will also push him to the top in cumulative time in space among NASA's astronauts. When he lands in March 2016, he will have spent more than 500 days of his life floating in orbit, including a 159-day trip to the space station that ended in 2011.

With his trip this time twice as long, "my expectation is that it'll be more challenging and, as a result, more rewarding," Mr. Kelly, 51, said in a recent interview.

Like all travelers to the space station since the retirement of NASA's space shuttles in 2011, Mr. Kelly and the two Russians, Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka, will be launching on a Russian Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Liftoff is scheduled for 3:42 p.m. Friday Eastern time, which is 1:42 a.m. Saturday in Baikonur. The Soyuz capsule will dock at the space station about six hours later.

Until now, stays at the International Space Station have lasted about six months. In the 1980s and 1990s, Russian astronauts made longer trips to the Mir space station.

NASA scientists hope to learn more about the physical and psychological toll of long space missions, including the effects of factors like weightlessness and radiation on bones, the circulatory system and muscles.

"All of those things really affect the bodies of astronauts," Julie A. Robinson, NASA's chief scientist for the space station, said during a news conference in January. "They push them to something not at all unlike aging on Earth, where their balance is disrupted, their hearts are weaker, their immune system isn't functioning as well, their muscles are weaker and their bones are being lost."

That is part of the groundwork NASA wants to complete before it would be ready, in a couple of decades, to send astronauts to Mars.

"We're doing this so that we can mitigate those effects, so we can eventually go beyond low-Earth orbit one day and explore further than we've gone before," Mr. Kelly said.

NASA scientists will see whether Mr. Kelly's experience differs from his earlier trip, especially during the second six months. They will also conduct experiments comparing his health to that of his twin brother, Mark Kelly, a retired NASA astronaut, on Earth.

"Mark will participate as a sort of a ground control to really help us understand this nature-versus-nurture question," Dr. Robinson said.

Mr. Kornienko will also remain in the space station for a year, but he will not set any Russian space records by doing so. In 1995, Valery Polyakov set the world's record for longest single stay in space at nearly 438 days when he returned from Mir.

However, Mr. Padalka, who will be spending the typical six months at the space station, will set a record, for the most total time by any astronaut in space, about 878 days. A retired Russian astronaut, Sergei Krikalev, is the current record-holder, with 803 days.

Mr. Kelly said that during his year off the planet he thought he would miss the same things he missed last time. "The human connection with your friends and family," Mr. Kelly said. "Getting away from work. Going outside."

He described the space station as a "magical place," but added, "You never get to leave."

(Source: New York Times)
About the Author
  • Will Hector practices psychotherapy at Heart in Balance Counseling Center in Oakland, California. He has substantial training in Attachment Theory, Hakomi Body-Centered Psychotherapy, Psycho-Physical Therapy, and Formative Psychology. To learn more about his practice, click here: http://www.heartinbalancetherapy.com/will-hector.html
You May Also Like
SEP 25, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
How Genetics Can Inform Our Understanding of ADHD
SEP 25, 2020
How Genetics Can Inform Our Understanding of ADHD
Scientists have discovered that African-Americans and people of European ancestry may have different genetic causes of a ...
OCT 05, 2020
Microbiology
Deadly Microbe Linked to Childhood Brain Disorder
OCT 05, 2020
Deadly Microbe Linked to Childhood Brain Disorder
Pediatric hydrocephalus - excessive fluid on the brain of a child - has been connected to a bacterial pathogen.
OCT 06, 2020
Microbiology
Scarlet Fever 'Superclones' Pose Rising Public Health Threat
OCT 06, 2020
Scarlet Fever 'Superclones' Pose Rising Public Health Threat
More than 100 years ago, the world faced waves of scarlet fever epidemics; between around 1820 and 1880 there were sever ...
OCT 09, 2020
Microbiology
Two Early Relatives of Rubella Are Discovered
OCT 09, 2020
Two Early Relatives of Rubella Are Discovered
Rubella is a contagious, airborne viral infection that can lead to rash, fever, and sore throat. It's especially dangero ...
OCT 13, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
Test for Diabetes Checks If the Liver Is Responding
OCT 13, 2020
Test for Diabetes Checks If the Liver Is Responding
Glucagon is a hormone that prevents blood glucose levels from dropping too low by stimulating the liver to convert store ...
OCT 22, 2020
Health & Medicine
Vaping of Nicotine and Cannabis Mirror Each Other in Young People
OCT 22, 2020
Vaping of Nicotine and Cannabis Mirror Each Other in Young People
A new study has looked at whether nicotine and cannabis vaping follow similar trajectories from adolescence through to y ...
Loading Comments...