NASA, Roscosmos Choose Long Duration Crew Members

NASA, Roscosmos Choose Long Duration Crew Members

NASA and its Russian counterpart, Roscosmos, today announced the names of the two men who will comprise the first International Space Station (ISS) crew to remain in space continuously for one year.   The mission is scheduled to begin in spring 2015.

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko got the nod from their agencies to serve aboard the ISS for this special mission, designed to study the long duration effects of spaceflight conditions on humans.   Both already have served regular tours aboard the ISS — Kelly on Expedition 25/26 that spanned 2010-2011, and Kornienko on Expedition 23/24 in 2010.  Kelly also flew on two space shuttle missions (STS-103 and STS-118) and has a total of over 180 days in space.   Kornienko accumulated 176 days in space on his ISS mission.  Typically, crew members remain on ISS for four-six months and then are replaced by a new crew.

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly

Photo credit: NASA

Roscosmos cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko

Photo credit:  NASA

Scott Kelly’s twin brother, Mark, was also a NASA astronaut and scheduled to fly on a space shuttle mission to the ISS while Scott Kelly was aboard.  They would have gone down in the record books as the first twins in space.    Schedule delays pushed Mark Kelly’s shuttle flight beyond his brother’s return from the ISS, however, so that did not happen.  The delay may have been fortuitous for Mark Kelly who had more weeks to help his wife, then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, begin her ongoing recovery from an assassination attempt that occurred during that time period.  Mark Kelly resigned from NASA after his shuttle flight.

In announcing the selection of Scott Kelly and Kornienko, NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Bill Gerstenmaier said the one-year mission “would expand the bounds of how we live and work in space and will increase our knowledge regarding the effects of microgravity on humans as we prepare for future missions beyond low-Earth orbit.”   Roscosmos Director Vladimir Popovkin said “We have chosen the most responsible skilled and enthusiastic crew members to expand space exploration, and we have full confidence in them.”

In the 51 years since the Soviet Union’s Yuri Gagarin inaugurated the era of human spaceflight, only four people have spent one year or more continuously in orbit, all on Russia’s Mir space station.  That is a very small pool of data on the physiological and psychological impacts of long durations in space where humans must cope with microgravity, radiation, and isolation.  Kelly and Kornienko will add two more data points. 

The four who already have experienced such long duration missions are:

  • Valeriy Polyakhov, 438 days (about 14 months), 1994-1995
  • Sergei Avdeev, 380 days, 1998-1999
  • Vladimir Titov and Musa Manarov, 366 days, 198701988

In all those cases, other cosmonauts were coming and going to Mir for shorter stays in much the same way that the ISS operates with crews rotating on regular, overlapping schedules.

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