American & Russian Prepare for Yearlong Space Mission

WASHINGTON, December 5 (RIA Novosti) American astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko acknowledged during a joint news conference Wednesday that their upcoming yearlong mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS) will be challenging, but will help advance scientific knowledge for possible future trips to asteroids and planets in our solar system.

“It’s an honor to be chosen for this flight. We’ll hopefully set the stage for sending humans beyond low Earth orbit someday, and one day to Mars,” said Kelly about the mission, which will help NASA and the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) understand how the human body adapts to long space missions.

The spaceflight veterans, who have both made previous trips to the ISS and spent about 180 days total in space during their careers, are expected to launch to the station in the spring of 2015.

Kornienko, speaking from the Mission Control Center in Moscow, said he is excited about working with Kelly who he knows as “a highly trained professional and very good man and person, and I am happy to have him as a companion for a year.”

“I am a professional and it is my job and I am eager to do this,” Kornienko said. “Of course I understand it won’t be easy. It will be hard.”

The Russian space program has sent four cosmonauts into space to live for one year at the old Mir Station, the last trip was in 1999, but this upcoming trip will mark the longest mission in space for an American astronaut.

This mission will allow scientists to study the affect long term travel has physically and psychologically on the human body, such as intracranial pressure and vision impacts, bone loss, immune function over the 12-month period, as well as behavior, performance and crew interactions.

These studies will help scientists plan better and help minimize those issues for future space travel to destinations such as Mars.

Kelly, speaking from the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, said his family has been very supportive about his decision to spend one year in space and he said his nine-year-old daughter “screamed out ‘awesome!’” when she heard the news.

Kornienko said his wife started crying when he told her of his upcoming yearlong trip, but he said that “it was my initiative” to go.

Both men know that spending an entire year in space in an isolated environment is not going to be easy, but Kelly said that he is, “up for that challenge” that can at times be routine since you wake up and go to bed in the same place and are “in your office for an entire year and not able to leave.”

“The greatest concern is missing people, your loved ones, your family, your friends on a personal level that you are attached to on the ground,” he said.

Kornienko said he is going to try and spend as much time with his friends and family before leaving for the yearlong trip, but indicated training will be intensive and might not allow for much extra time.

Although he may not be able to see much of his loved ones before he leaves, the Russian cosmonaut said he is looking forward to spending a year with Kelly.

“All politics is left behind or below when we are together,” he said. “We are very friendly together and will be good to each other and friendly together during our expedition.”

Kelly’s identical twin brother, Mark Kelly, retired from the astronaut corps last year. Mark Kelly is married to former US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was critically wounded in an assassination attempt in January 2011 while Scott Kelly was living aboard the ISS.


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