Russia Says Year-Long ISS Mission in the Works

Russia Says Year-Long ISS Mission in the Works

Update:  NASA officially announced on October 5, 2012 that the ISS partners have agreed on a one-year mission in 2015.

Correction:  This article has been corrected to indicate that a fourth Russian cosmonaut, Sergei Avdeev, also spent one year or more continuously aboard the Mir space station.

Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency reports that Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, and NASA have agreed to a year-long International Space Station (ISS) mission in 2015.

The longest space station mission for a single cosmonaut was Valeriy Polyakov’s 437 day mission (about 14 months) aboard Russia’s Mir space station from January 1994-March 1995.  Regular Mir crews rotated on roughly 6-month schedules like the current ISS crews, but Polyakov stayed through successive crew rotations to test how humans react to long durations in spaceflight conditions.  Sergei Avdeev also stayed over multiple missions from  August 1998-August 1999 for a total of 380 days of continuous spaceflight on that mission.  Two other Russian cosmonauts, Vladimir Titov and Musa Manarov, spent a year aboard Mir together (December 1987-December 1988) while other cosmonauts came and went.

Trips to Mars — and possibly asteroids — will require spaceflight durations longer than the typical 6-month space station missions, which apparently is why Roscosmos and NASA have agreed to a year-long ISS mission.

RIA Novosti quoted Alexei Krasnov, head of human spaceflight at Roscosmos, as saying yesterday that the decision has been made to keep one Russian cosmonaut and one American astronaut aboard the ISS for a year in 2015 and all that remains is working out the formalities.  The longest an American has remained in orbit is 215 days, a record held by Michael Lopez-Alegria.  He and cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin were on ISS together from September 2006-April 2007. 

The physiological and psychological strains of spaceflight need to be better understood before mounting missions to destinations far beyond low Earth orbit.  Such missions likely will be international, so tests aimed at understanding the cultural aspects of long duration spaceflight in multinational crews should provide especially useful data.

The announcement comes just weeks after veteran Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka complained about the spartan conditions aboard the Russian segment of the ISS after a four-month stint there.  During a September 21 press conference after the landing of his Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft, he criticized the accommodations aboard the Russian segment as out of date and Russian space technology as “frozen in the last century” according to an account by James Oberg for  Padalka reportedly argued against a year-long mission until significant improvements are made for crew comfort. 

Based on Krasnov’s statement, Padalka’s views apparently were not persuasive in terms of committing to a one-year mission, although Russia’s top political leaders are focused on how to fix Russia’s ailing space industry.

User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.