American, Russian leave Earth this week for year in space

March 23, 2015 | By | Reply More

Mar 23, – Kelly went beltless during his five-month mission at the International Space Station a few years back, and he hated how his shirttails kept floating out of his pants. So this time, the 51-year-old retired Navy captain packed “a military, tactical-style thing” that can hold a tool pouch.

American, Russian leave Earth this week for year in spaceWhat’s one thing astronauts Scott Kelly of the U.S. and Mikhail Kornienko of Russia can’t do without when they move into space this week for a year?

For Kelly, it’s a belt. Kornienko must have his vitamins.

For Kornienko, three bottles of vitamins will be on board when their Soyuz rocket blasts off from Kazakhstan on Saturday.

After more than two years of training, Kelly and Kornienko are eager to get going. It will be the longest space mission ever for NASA, and the longest in almost two decades for the Russian Space Agency, which holds the record at 14 months.

Medicine and technology have made huge leaps since then, and the world’s space agencies need to know how the body adapts to an entire year of weightlessness before committing to even longer Mars expeditions. More yearlong missions are planned, with an ultimate goal of 12 test subjects. The typical station stint is six months.

“We know a lot about six months. But we know almost nothing about what happens between six and 12 months in space,” said NASA’s space station program scientist, Julie Robinson.

Among the more common space afflictions: weakened bones and muscles, and impaired vision and immune system. Then there is the psychological toll.

Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, a frequent flier who will accompany Kelly and Kornienko into orbit, predicts it will be the psychological — not physical — effects that will be toughest on the one-year crew.

“Being far away from Earth, being sort of crammed, having few people to interact with,” Padalka said. He’ll break the record for most time spent in space during his six-month stay, closing in on a grand total of 900 days by the time he returns to Earth in September.

Neither Kelly nor Kornienko, though, worries about himself. They fret about the family and friends they are leaving behind for an entire year — until next March.

“If something happens … you’re not coming home, no matter what it is. You’re not coming back,” Kelly said in an interview earlier this year with The Associated Press.

Kelly’s loved ones include: his two daughters, ages 20 and 11; his NASA-employed girlfriend; his widowed father; his identical twin brother Mark, a retired astronaut; and his sister-in-law, Gabrielle Giffords, a former congresswoman who barely survived an assassination attempt while he was at the space station in 2011.

Kornienko, 54, a former paratrooper, worries how his wife will cope alone at their country house outside Moscow. His 32-year-old daughter is a new mother; the baby is not quite a year old.

Wife Irina cried when she learned in 2012 that he’d be leaving Earth for a whole year. And she’s still not happy about it, Kornienko told the AP.

“She understands that it’s a dangerous mission. But she’s getting used to the idea,” he said.

A vivid reminder of the dangers of spaceflight hit home last fall when an unmanned supply ship blew up shortly after liftoff from Virginia. Kelly’s original belt was destroyed, along with the rest of the station cargo. Replacements went up on the next commercial shipment.

The two veteran space fliers are fully aware of all the risks. Kelly has flown in space three times for a total of 180 days. (Two of those trips were space shuttle quickies.) Kornienko has a single 176-day station flight on his resume.

Kornienko was selected by his bosses for the job while Kelly volunteered.

At least Kelly will get outside for a spacewalk this time. Considerable work is needed to prepare the orbiting lab for the 2017 arrival of U.S. commercial crew capsules.

Another plus is that Kelly and Kornienko seem to honestly like one another. And they won’t be alone. There are normally six people on board and lots of compartments, including three full-scale laboratories, in which to disappear. Besides, the U.S. and Russian crews generally spend their workdays on their respective sides, Kelly noted. The total interior volume is roughly equivalent to two Boeing 747s.

Among those coming and going, in September, will be British soprano superstar Sarah Brightman. She will visit for 1½ weeks as a paying tourist, and will perform live from on high.

Press journalist for HRO media – Khizer Hayat reports.

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Category: International

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