First British Astronaut to Visit ISS Blasts Off on Soyuz with Russian/American Crewmates

The Soyuz TMA-19M rocket is launched with the Expedition 46 crew of Yuri Malenchenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), Flight Engineer Tim Kopra of NASA, and Flight Engineer Tim Peake of ESA (European Space Agency), on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.  Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky
The Soyuz TMA-19M rocket is launched with the Expedition 46 crew of Yuri Malenchenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), Flight Engineer Tim Kopra of NASA, and Flight Engineer Tim Peake of ESA (European Space Agency), on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

The first British astronaut to blast off on a journey to the International Space Station (ISS) soared gloriously skyward early today, Dec 15, following the flawless launch of a Russian Soyuz capsule with his Russian/American crewmates from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The picture perfect liftoff of the Soyuz TMA-19M rocket into clear blue skies with Expedition 46 Soyuz Commander and six time space flyer Yuri Malenchenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), Flight Engineer Tim Kopra of NASA, and Flight Engineer Tim Peake of ESA (European Space Agency), occurred at 6:03 a.m. EST (5:03 p.m. Baikonur time, 1103 GMT) on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015.

The Soyuz crew executed a series of Continue reading “First British Astronaut to Visit ISS Blasts Off on Soyuz with Russian/American Crewmates”

Space Station Trio Returns Safely to Earth for Rare Night Landing After 141 Day Mission

Scott Kelly of NASA captured this image, from aboard the International Space Station, of the Soyuz TMA-17M leaving the ISS on Dec. 11, 2015. Credits: NASA/Scott Kelly
Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly of NASA captured this image, from aboard the International Space Station, of the Dec. 11, 2015 undocking and departure of the Soyuz TMA-17M carrying home Expedition 45 crew members Kjell Lindgren of NASA, Oleg Kononenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency and Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency after their 141-day mission on the orbital laboratory. Newly arrived Cygnus cargo ship and solar panels seen at upper right. Credits: NASA/Scott Kelly
Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly of NASA captured this image, from aboard the International Space Station, of the Dec. 11, 2015 undocking and departure of the Soyuz TMA-17M carrying home Expedition 45 crew members Kjell Lindgren of NASA, Oleg Kononenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency and Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency after their 141-day mission on the orbital laboratory. Newly arrived Cygnus cargo ship and solar panels seen at upper right. Credits: NASA/Scott Kelly

Plummeting to Earth during a fiery atmospheric reentry within the cramped confines of their Russian Soyuz capsule, an international trio of space flyers returned safely to the Home Planet today, Dec. 11, for a rare nighttime landing, after departing the International Space Station (ISS) which had been their home in space for the past 141 days.

Expedition 45 crew members Kjell Lindgren of NASA, Oleg Kononenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency and Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) safely concluded their nearly Continue reading “Space Station Trio Returns Safely to Earth for Rare Night Landing After 141 Day Mission”

International Space Station Achieves 15 Years of Continuous Human Presence in Orbit

The International Space Station (ISS) achieved 15 years of a continuous human presence in orbit, as of today, Nov. 2, aboard the football field sized research laboratory ever since the first Russian/American crew of three cosmonauts and astronauts comprising Expedition 1 arrived in a Soyuz capsule at the then much tinier infant orbiting complex on Nov. 2, 2000.

Today, the space station is host to the Expedition 45 crew of six humans – from America, Russia and Japan – that very symbolically also includes the first ever crew spending one year aboard and that highlights the outposts expanding role from a research lab to a deep space exploration test bed for experiments and technologies required for sending humans on interplanetary journeys to the Martian system in the 2030s.

The ISS was only made possible by over two decades of peaceful and friendly international cooperation by the most powerful nations on Earth on a scale rarely seen.

“I believe the International Space Station should be considered for the Nobel Peace Prize,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden last week during remarks to the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC., on October 28, 2015.

“Exploration has taught us more than we have ever known about our Universe and our place in it.”

“The ISS has already taught us what’s possible when tens of thousands of people across 15 countries collaborate so that human beings from different nations can live and work in space together.”

“Yet, for all these accomplishments, when you consider all the possibilities ahead of us you can only reach one conclusion; We are just getting started!”

6 person ISS Expedition 45 Crew celebrates 15 Years of operation with humans on 2 Nov 2015.  Credit: NASA
6 person ISS Expedition 45 Crew celebrates 15 Years of operation with humans on 2 Nov 2015. Credit: NASA

“No better place to celebrate #15YearsOnStation! #HappyBday, @space_station! Thanks for the hospitality! #YearInSpace.” tweeted NASA astronaut Scott Kelly from the ISS today along with a crew portrait.

The space station is the largest engineering and construction project in space combining the funding, hardware, knowhow, talents and crews from 5 space agencies and 15 countries – NASA, Roscomos, ESA (European Space Agency), JAXA (Japan Aerospace and Exploration Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency).

NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson, an Expedition 24 flight engineer in 2010, took a moment during her space station mission to enjoy an unmatched view of home through a window in the Cupola of the International Space Station, the brilliant blue and white part of Earth glowing against the blackness of space.  Credits: NASA
NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson, an Expedition 24 flight engineer in 2010, took a moment during her space station mission to enjoy an unmatched view of home through a window in the Cupola of the International Space Station, the brilliant blue and white part of Earth glowing against the blackness of space. Credits: NASA

The collaborative work in space has transcended our differences here on Earth and points the way forward to an optimistic future that benefits all humanity.

The station orbits at an altitude of about 250 miles (400 kilometers) above Earth. It measures 357 feet (109 meters) end-to-end and has an internal pressurized volume of 32,333 cubic feet, equivalent to that of a Boeing 747.

The uninterrupted human presence on the station all began when Expedition 1 docked at the outpost on Nov. 2, 2000, with its first residents including Commander William Shepherd of NASA and cosmonauts Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko of Roscosmos.

For the first station trio in November 2000, the vehicle included three modules; the Zarya module and the Zvezda service module from Russia and the Unity module from the US.

In this photo, Expedition 1 crew members (from left to right) Commander Bill Shepherd, and Flight Engineers Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev pose with a model of their home away from home.  Image Credit: NASA
In this photo, Expedition 1 crew members (from left to right) Commander Bill Shepherd, and Flight Engineers Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev pose with a model of their home away from home. Image Credit: NASA

Over the past 15 years, after more than 115 construction and logistics flight, the station has grown by leaps and bounds from its small initial configuration of only three pressurized modules from Russian and America into a sprawling million pound orbiting outpost sporting a habitable volume the size of a six bedroom house, with additional new modules and hardware from Europe, Japan and Canada.

The ISS has been visited by over 220 people from 17 countries.

The “1 Year ISS crew” reflects the international cooperation that made the station possible and comprises current ISS commander NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, who are now just past the half way mark of their mission.

“Over the weekend, I called NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who is currently halfway through his one-year mission aboard the International Space Station, to congratulate him on setting the American records for both cumulative and continuous days in space,” Bolden said in a NASA statement released today.

“I also took the opportunity to congratulate Commander Kelly — and the rest of the space station crew — for being part of a remarkable moment 5,478 days in the making: the 15th anniversary of continuous human presence aboard the space station.”

Scott Kelly, U.S. astronaut and commander of the current Expedition 45 crew, broke the US record for time spent in space on Oct. 16, 2015. Credit: NASA
Scott Kelly, U.S. astronaut and commander of the current Expedition 45 crew, broke the US record for time spent in space on Oct. 16, 2015. Credit: NASA

The complete Expedition 45 crew members include Station Commander Scott Kelly and Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren of NASA, Flight Engineers Mikhail Kornienko, Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Volkov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Flight Engineer Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

For the first nine years, the station was home to crews of two or three. Starting in 2009 the crew size was doubled to a permanent crew of six humans after the habitable volume, research facilities, equipment and supporting provisions had grown sufficiently.

“Humans have been living in space aboard the International Space Station 24-7-365 since Nov. 2, 2000. That’s 15 Thanksgivings, New Years, and holiday seasons astronauts have spent away from their families. 15 years of constant support from Mission Control Houston. And 15 years of peaceful international living in space,” says NASA.

Expedition 45 Crew Portrait: Station Commander Scott Kelly and Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren of NASA, Flight Engineers Mikhail Kornienko, Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Volkov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Flight Engineer Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.  Credit: NASA/Roscosmos/JAXA
Expedition 45 Crew Portrait: Station Commander Scott Kelly and Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren of NASA, Flight Engineers Mikhail Kornienko, Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Volkov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Flight Engineer Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Credit: NASA/Roscosmos/JAXA

The US contributed and built the largest number of segments of the space station, followed by Russia.

NASA’s Space Shuttles hauled the US segments aloft inside the orbiters huge payload bay, starting from the first construction mission in 1998 carrying the Unity module to the final shuttle flight STS-135 in 2011, which marked the completion of construction and retirement of the shuttles.

With the shuttle orbiters now sitting in museums and no longer flying, the Russian Soyuz capsule is the only means of transporting crews to the space station and back.

The longevity of the ISS was recently extended from 2020 to 2024 after approval from President Obama. Most of the partners nations have also agreed to the extension. Many in the space community believe the station hardware is quite resilient and hope for further extensions to 2028 and beyond.

“The International Space Station, which President Obama has extended through 2024, is a testament to the ingenuity and boundless imagination of the human spirit. The work being done on board is an essential part of NASA’s journey to Mars, which will bring American astronauts to the Red Planet in the 2030s,” says Bolden.

“For 15 years, humanity’s reach has extended beyond Earth’s atmosphere. Since 2000, human beings have been living continuously aboard the space station, where they have been working off-the-Earth for the benefit of Earth, advancing scientific knowledge, demonstrating new technologies, and making research breakthroughs that will enable long-duration human and robotic exploration into deep space.”

A key part of enabling long duration space missions to Mars is the 1 Year ISS Mission.

Scott Kelly recently set the US records for most time in space and longest single space mission.

In coming years, additional new pressurized modules and science labs will be added by Russia and the US.

And NASA says the stations crew size will expand to seven after the US commercial Starliner and Dragon space taxis from Boeing and SpaceX start flying in 2017.

NASA is now developing the new Orion crew capsule and mammoth Space Launch System (SLS) heavy lift rocket to send astronauts to deep space destination including the Moon, asteroids and the Red Planet.

In the meantime, Kelly and his crew are also surely looking forward to the arrival of the next Orbital ATK Cygnus resupply ship carrying science experiments, provisions, spare parts, food and other goodies after it blasts off from Florida on Dec. 3 – detailed in my story here.

Infographic: 15 Years of Continuous Human Presence Aboard the International Space Station.  Credit: NASA
Infographic: 15 Years of Continuous Human Presence Aboard the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

STS-135: Last launch using RS-25 engines that will now power NASA’s SLS deep space exploration rocket. NASA’s 135th and final shuttle mission takes flight on July 8, 2011 at 11:29 a.m. from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida bound for the ISS and the high frontier with Chris Ferguson as Space Shuttle Commander. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
STS-135: Last launch using RS-25 engines that will now power NASA’s SLS deep space exploration rocket. NASA’s 135th and final shuttle mission takes flight on July 8, 2011 at 11:29 a.m. from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida bound for the final flight to the ISS and the high frontier with Chris Ferguson as Space Shuttle Commander. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly Sets US Record for Most Time in Space – At the ‘Speed of Sound’: Video

Video Caption: See NASA astronaut Scott Kelly’s extraterrestrial exploits as he breaks US record for time in space in this music video set to the song ‘Speed of Sound’ by Coldplay. Credit: NASA/Coldplay

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly has just broken the American record for most time spent in space – at 383 days and counting – as part of his groundbreaking yearlong mission living aboard the International Space Station (ISS), where he currently serves as station commander.

See Kelly break the US spaceflight endurance record on the ISS at the “SPEED OF SOUND” in the beautifully space themed music video (above) set to the worldwide hit song by rock band Coldplay.

The video recounts a flurry of highlights from the yearlong space station mission with his partner, Russian cosmonaut Mikahail Kornienko, and the rest of the rotating cast of international crewmates.

On October 16, 2015, Kelly surpassed the US time in space record of 382 days previously held by NASA astronaut Mike Fincke.

The ‘1 Year ISS mission’ is aimed at conducting research to explore the impact of long term stays in space on the human body and aid NASA’s long term plans for a human ‘Journey to Mars’ in the 2030s.

“Records are meant to be broken. Look fwd to one of my colleagues surpassing my end 500+ days on our #JourneyToMars!’ Kelly tweeted from the ISS about his record breaking achievement.

As of today, October 20, Kelly has reached the 206 day mark aboard the ISS, of his planned 342 days in space. He’s now about a month past the half way mark.

In addition to his scientific research, Kelly has been a prolific photographer of all things space – including natural wonders and natural disasters like Hurricane Joaquin.

Here’s his newly released photo titled ‘Earth Art From Australia.’

‘Earth Art From Australia.’ @StationCDRKelly captured 17 pics from @Space_Station during a single flyover of Australia from 12/13 Oct 2015.  Credit: NASA/Scott Kelly
‘Earth Art From Australia.’ @StationCDRKelly captured 17 pics from @Space_Station during a single flyover of Australia from 12/13 Oct 2015. Credit: NASA/Scott Kelly

See the NASA graphic herein showing the US astronauts who have accumulated the most spaceflight experience to date.

Station Commander Scott Kelly passed astronaut Mike Fincke, also a former station commander, on Oct. 16, 2015, for most cumulative days living and working in space by a NASA astronaut (383 days and counting). Kelly is scheduled to come home March 2, 2016, for a record total 522 days in space.  Credit: NASA
Station Commander Scott Kelly passed astronaut Mike Fincke, also a former station commander, on Oct. 16, 2015, for most cumulative days living and working in space by a NASA astronaut (383 days and counting). Kelly is scheduled to come home March 2, 2016, for a record total 522 days in space. Credit: NASA

Kelly accumulated his time in space during multiple spaceflights. Altogether this is his fourth mission and second long duration stay aboard the ISS. This flight also marks his second stint as station commander – as a member of the current Expedition 45 crew.

To be sure, Kelly is not merely passing Fincke’s record days but actually smashing through it by many months because he still has a long way to go until he returns home to Earth.

At the conclusion of his yearlong mission when he plummets back home in a Russian Soyuz capsule – along with Kornienko – on March 2, 2016, he will have compiled 522 total days living in space.

Kelly will also become the first American to spend a year in space, a feat previously achieved by only four Russian cosmonauts – all in the 1980s and 1990s aboard Russia’s Mir space station.

Next week on Thursday, Oct. 29, Kelly will break another American record for the single-longest spaceflight.

“On Oct. 29 on his 216th consecutive day in space, he will surpass astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria’s record for the single-longest spaceflight by an American. Lopez-Alegria spent 215 days in space as commander of the Expedition 14 crew in 2006.”

Scott Kelly, U.S. astronaut and commander of the current Expedition 45 crew, broke the US record for time spent in space on Oct. 16, 2015. Credit: NASA
Scott Kelly, U.S. astronaut and commander of the current Expedition 45 crew, broke the US record for time spent in space on Oct. 16, 2015. Credit: NASA

Kelly and Kornienko are spending a year aboard the ISS, “testing the limits of human research, space exploration and the human spirit,” says NASA officials.

The pair launched to the ISS in March 2015 along with Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka. He recently returned to Earth in September 2015 after setting the record for most time spent in space by any Earthling – with an accumulated total of 879 days living and working in space.

During their 342 days in space, Kelly and Kornienko are specifically “participating in studies in space that provide new insights into how the human body adjusts to weightlessness, isolation, radiation and stress of long-duration spaceflight. Kelly’s twin brother, former astronaut Mark Kelly, will participate in parallel twin studies on Earth to help scientists compare the effects on the body and mind in space.”

“The investigations in progress on the space station will help scientists better understand how to protect astronauts as they travel into deep space and eventually on missions to the Red Planet. The strong U.S.-Russian collaboration during the one-year mission is an example of the global cooperation aboard the space station that is a blueprint for international partnerships to advance shared goals in space exploration. Strengthening international partnerships will be key in taking humans deeper into the solar system,” according to NASA.

Hurricane Joaquin captured on Oct. 2, 2015 by NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly from the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/Scott Kelly
Hurricane Joaquin captured on Oct. 2, 2015 by NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly from the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/Scott Kelly

Kelly and the crew are also surely looking forward to the arrival of the Orbital ATK resupply ship carrying science experiments, provisions, spare parts, food and other goodies after it blasts off from Florida on Dec. 3 – detailed in my story here.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

Morning Aurora From the Space Station. NASA astronaut Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) captured this photograph of the green lights of the aurora from the International Space Station on Oct. 7, 2015. Credit: NASA
Morning Aurora From the Space Station. NASA astronaut Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) captured this photograph of the green lights of the aurora from the International Space Station on Oct. 7, 2015. Credit: NASA

NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian Cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko comprise  the first ever ISS 1 Year Crew
NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian Cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko comprise the first ever ISS 1 Year Crew

Spectacular Image Showcases Space Station Transiting the Sun with 9 Member Crew

The International Space Station transits the sun on Sunday, Sept. 6, 2015 with an enhanced crew of nine, as seen from Shenandoah National Park, Front Royal, VA in this composite image by NASA photographer Bill Ingalls. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Story/photos updated[/caption]

A spectacular new image taken from Earth showcases the International Space Station (ISS) transiting our Sun this past weekend, as the orbiting outpost is temporarily home to an enlarged crew of nine persons hailing from five nations.

The beautiful composite view of the ISS transiting the sun is shown above. It was released by NASA today, Sept. 8, and was created by combining a rapid fire series of five images taken on Sunday, Sept. 6, 2015 from Shenandoah National Park, Front Royal, VA, by renowned NASA photographer Bill Ingalls.

Ingalls is NASA’s top photographer for numerous space launches and NASA events worldwide.

Exquisitely careful planning is required to capture events such as this solar transit which is over in barely the wink of an eye.

The ISS was hurtling along at about 5 miles per second which has a rarely beef up complement of nine humans serving aboard for a short period of barely a week time.

The cosmonauts and astronaut crew currently aboard comprises two Americans, four Russians, and one each from Japan, Denmark and Kazakhstan; namely NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren: Russian Cosmonauts Gennady Padalka, Mikhail Kornienko, Oleg Kononenko, Sergey Volkov, Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui, Danish Astronaut Andreas Mogensen, and Kazakhstan Cosmonaut Aidyn Aimbetov.

The nine-member space station crew takes questions from journalists around the world on Sept. 8, 2015. Credit: NASA TV
The nine-member space station crew takes questions from journalists around the world on Sept. 8, 2015. Credit: NASA TV

They arrived aboard three different Russian Soyuz capsules.

Among the crew are the first ever 1 year ISS mission crew comprising Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko.

They arrived at the ISS in March and are now about half way through their nearly 12 month stay aimed at conducting research to explore the impact of long term stays in space on the human body and aid NASA’s long term plans for a human ‘Journey to Mars’ in the 2030s.

Kelly assumed command of the ISS on Saturday when it was formally handed over in a ceremony by Cosmonaut Gennady Padalka – who will soon depart for the voyage back home after completing his six month stint.

This marks Kelly’s second time serving as ISS commander. He was also a NASA Space Shuttle commander.

Mogensen and Aimbetov are first time space flyers and part of a short term 10 day taxi mission.

Along with Soyuz commander Sergey Volkov of Roscosmos, they launched to the ISS aboard the Soyuz TMA-18M from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan this past Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015 and docked two days later on Friday, Sept. 4.

Mogensen and Aimbetov will undock from the station on Friday, Sept. 11 along with Cosmonaut Gennady Padalka as Soyuz commander, the human with the distinction of the most time in space. Altogether Padalka will have accumulated 879 days in space over five missions, four on the space station and one on Russia’s Mir.

Sergey Volkov of Roscosmos, Andreas Mogensen of ESA (European Space Agency) and Aidyn Aimbetov of the Kazakh Space Agency launched aboard Soyuz TMA-18M from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 12:37 a.m. EDT on Wednesday (10:37 a.m. in Baikonur).  Credits: NASA TV
Sergey Volkov of Roscosmos, Andreas Mogensen of ESA (European Space Agency) and Aidyn Aimbetov of the Kazakh Space Agency launched aboard Soyuz TMA-18M from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 12:37 a.m. EDT on Wednesday (10:37 a.m. in Baikonur). Credits: NASA TV

Since the forced retirement of NASA’s shuttle orbiters in 2011, US astronauts have been totally dependent on the Russians for trips to space and back.

Boeing and SpaceX are now building America’s next human spaceships under contracts awarded by NASA.

‘Starliner’ is the new name of Boeing’s CST-100 commercial crew transportation spaceship – as announced during the Grand Opening event for the craft’s manufacturing facility held at the Kennedy Space Center on Friday, Sept 4. 2015 and attended by Universe Today. Read my story – here.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

How Not To Get Bored During A Year On Space Station

When planning for long-duration space travel, many people would think along the lines of not forgetting a towel or something of that nature. But we on Earth who are spoiled by the astounding pictures beamed from space must realize that even astronauts can get tired of looking at the same few walls for months at a time.

Scott Kelly is going to spend a year in space in 2015, and he highlighted boredom as one of the things he will need to fight against during his time on the International Space Station.

“There are things I will do a little bit differently with regards to pacing myself. You wouldn’t think this is true, but you do have to kind of stay entertained over that kind of period,” said Scott Kelly in a NASA interview late last week, which you can watch above. 

“No matter how exciting that kind of things is, no matter how beautiful the Earth is, when you’re doing it for a year there is still the factor of trying to keep yourself engaged and interested.”

Kelly also highlighted some of the training challenges he will face being that he will be up there twice as long as the typical six-month space station mission. While it won’t take twice as long to do emergency training, he is required to do it with twice as many astronauts/cosmonauts because he will be working with four crews in space.

He also will train with two different Soyuz spacecraft commanders (which will add “complexity”, he noted) and have twice as much science to perform. That includes several “twin” studies where scientists will compare Kelly and his identical brother Mark, a four-time shuttle flyer who retired from the program in 2011.

Another lesson learned from his last six-month flight in 2010? “I know what I want to bring this time that I didn’t have last time,” Kelly said, although he didn’t elaborate on what those items are.

Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will begin their mission just under one year from now.

Twin Peeks: Astronaut Brothers To Go Under Microscope During One-Year Mission

Identical twin astronauts, one headed to space for a year and the other happily at home. Imagine just how excited health researchers are by the prospect of this situation which yes, is happening for real. Scott Kelly is preparing to blast off on a lengthy mission to the International Space Station in 2015 while his retired twin, Mark, will serve as a control.

The 50-year-old men will do a suite of experiments before, during and after the mission to see how much (if at all) Scott’s body changes from his brother in the long term. This ranges from examining their DNA, to their vision, and even changes in the gut.

“These will not be 10 individual studies,” stated Craig Kundrot of NASA’s human research program at the Johnson Space Center. “The real power comes in combining them to form an integrated picture of all levels from biomolecular to psychological.  We’ll be studying the entire astronaut.”

One experiment will examine telomeres, which NASA says are “molecular caps” that sit on the ends of human DNA. As the theory goes, these telomeres are affected in space by cosmic rays (high-energy particles originating from outside the solar system) — which could speed up the aging process. If Scott’s telomeres change after the mission, this could help determine if space is linked to rapid aging.

Another experiment asks how the immune system alters. “We already know that the human immune system changes in space.  It’s not as strong as it is on the ground,” said Kundrot. “In one of the experiments, Mark and Scott will be given identical flu vaccines, and we will study how their immune systems react.”

Then there are experiments looking at gut bacteria that help digestion, seeking out how human vision changes, and even a phenomenon known as “space fog” — how some astronauts find themselves losing alertness in orbit.

Although the twins have inherent fascination for researchers and sociologists, the Kellys themselves have emphasized that to them, having an identical counterpart is something that always was.

NASA astronaut Mark Kelly peers out a window during the penultimate shuttle mission, STS-134, in 2011. Around his neck is the ring of his wife, Gabrielle Giffords, who was recovering from a gunshot head wound during the mission. Credit: NASA
NASA astronaut Mark Kelly peers out a window during the penultimate shuttle mission, STS-134, in 2011. Around his neck is the ring of his wife, Gabrielle Giffords, who was recovering from a gunshot head wound during the mission. Credit: NASA

“We didn’t know anything differently and, you know, he’s not my clone,” Scott said in a joint 2010 NASA interview with Mark.

“You know, a lot of times people would ask, ‘So what’s it like to be a twin?’ and … the response I would usually give is, ‘Well, what’s it like not to be a twin?’ I mean, it’s just, it is,” Mark added, to which Scott responded, “It’s more like … he’s my brother but we just happen to have the same birthday, to me.”

Scott will leave Earth with Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko in 2015 for the first one-year mission in space since a handful of lengthy stays on the former Russian space station, Mir, in the 1990s. Scott will serve as Expedition 43/44 flight engineer and have the distinction of commanding two space station missions, Expedition 45 and 46. (He also commanded Expedition 26 in 2010.)

Source: NASA