On Friday NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko and cosmonaut Gennady Padalka blasted off aboard a Soyuz TMA-16 spacecraft from Kazakhstan. Scott and Mikhail will be the first to attempt a record year long mission aboard the spacecraft while Gennady would be returning in a standard 6 months.
The Russians have already previously attempted 14 months and 12 month stays in space aboard the former Mir space station. The group is scheduled to dock with the station at 9:36 p.m., about six hours after launch. The three will be joining three other astronauts already aboard the station since November. However the three others Virts, Cristoforetti and Shkaplerov will be soon be returning home sometime in May.
NASA through this mission hopes to learn more about long term space survival so that it can work on manned Mars missions in the future. A Mars trip could take around 500 days which could have adverse effects on the bodies of the astronauts mainly because of reduced bodily functions and activities as a result of loss of gravity. Months at a time in space can cause loss of muscle mass, reduced immune function and other health impairments.NASA wishes to understand and work on this through the current mission.
Astronaut Kelly was chosen for this mission as he has an identical twin Mark, who could be medically tested and act as a baseline to determine the levels of various chemicals in Kelly’s blood or for checking his Blood pressure and for various other tests. These tests conducted on the brothers would help NASA determine the feasibility of sending humans to Mars. Physical performance, stress levels and other metabolic changes will also be monitored for both over the year.
Kelly, who initially was not very enthusiastic about the trip because of the mental and emotional challenges accompanied with it, however, changed his decision when he thought of the results which the assignment would bring. He wanted to go ahead with it as it would be useful for the future generations and would be helpful for planning future Mars initiatives.
The astronauts would be constantly in touch with family and friends aboard the spacecraft through a Skype like connection. They would also be maintaining a daily journal and watching TV shows to spend their time. The two will remain on board until next March.
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