A NASA astronaut has never spent a year in space. That’s going to change with Friday’s launch of the prime crew members of International Space Station Expedition 43. NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian Federal Space Agency cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will spend a year aboard the International Space Station.
This will also mark the first one-year crew for the International Space Station.
Scientists want to better understand how Kelly’s and Kornienko’s bodies react to the rigors of space over a year. Data from this mission will be vital in reducing the risks of long-term space travel for a future mission to Mars.
The pair’s year-long mission is overshadowing Gennady Padalka’s upcoming achievement. During his six-month stint aboard the ISS, he will be come the first four-time ISS commander and will set a new record for most cumulative time spent in space.
Let’s take a deeper look into what Kelly and Kornienko will accomplish with their one-year stay.
There are seven primary categories of research during the one-year mission. All of them are focused on the person’s health. They include: functional, behavioral health, visual impairment, metabolic, physical performance, microbial and human factors.
Scientists are using this one-year mission to gain “new insights into how the human body adjusts to weightlessness, isolation, radiation and stress of long duration spaceflight.”
While Scott Kelly will be in space for a year, his twin brother Mark will act as a control for the research. A team of researchers will compare what’s happening to Scott with Mark. The comparison should give researchers a good idea as to the changes the human body undergoes during long periods in space.
Researchers know all about the changes to the human body between the first day in space and the six-month mark. It’s what happens between six-months and a year that is uncharted territory.
Key points of research include:
Human Physiology – How extended spaceflight may change organs such as the heart, muscles or brain.
Other areas of research are the same as the one-year study above. Researchers will look at changes in behavioral health, microbiome and molecular.
NASA TV will have live coverage of Friday’s launch starting at 2:30 pm EDT. Launch is scheduled for 3:42 pm EDT.
Friday begins our first step towards a Mars mission. Maybe kids in school now really will be the first to step on Mars.
Image credits: NASA