Expedition 43 is on its way to the International Space Station. NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka blasted off aboard a Soyuz capsule at 3:42 pm EDT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The mission will mark a first for the International Space Station. Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko will spend one year in space. This will be the first ISS mission that doesn’t last the usual 6 months.

Gennady Padalka will set a record of his own during his six-month stay at the ISS. He will be come the first four-time ISS commander in May and will set a new record for the most cumulative time spent in space.

“Scott Kelly’s mission is critical to advancing the administration’s plan to send humans on a journey to Mars,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “We’ll gain new, detailed insights on the ways long-duration spaceflight affects the human body.”

Once Kelly, Kornienko and Padalka reach the space station, the ISS will return to its normal six-man crew. Terry Virts, Samantha Cristoforetti and Anton Shkaplerov will meet the trio at the airlock later today. The six will stay together until May when Virts, Cristoforetti and Shkaplerov come back to Earth.

Check out the video of the launch below.

Kelly’s Mission

How does the body react to prolonged spaceflight? That’s the ultimate question surrounding Kelly’s one-year stay aboard the ISS. How will his sleep patterns change? What about his vision? Changes in his immune system? These are all questions NASA wants to better understand as they lay the foundation for a manned mission to Mars.

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NASA also has the added benefit of observing Scott’s twin brother Mark.

Mark will act as a control for Scott. Two research programs will run in tandem to see what kind of changes Scott undergoes past the six-month mark in space.

“This mission will push the limits of what Americans can do in space. I hope it will advance our understanding of what happens when people leave the planet for a long time and help pave the way for sending Americans beyond low-earth orbit,” said Mark Kelly in a statement.

Give Scott Kelly’s Instagram a follow to keep up with his year-long space adventure.

Scott Kelly will be apart of four expeditions during his stay at the ISS – Expedition 43, 44, 45 and 46. He will serve as commander of the ISS on Expedition 45 and 46. Here’s the awesome crew portrait for Expedition 45.

expedition 45 crew portrait

The ISS crews love to theme their crew portraits. Check out the rest here.

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