An American astronaut and Russian cosmonaut launched into space Friday to attempt something their two countries have never done together before: a one-year mission on the International Space Station that could help one day send humans to Mars.
The epic one-year space mission launched NASA’s Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko into orbit aboard a Russian Soyuz space capsule at 3:42 p.m. EDT (1942 GMT) today (March 27) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, where it was early Saturday morning local time. Also flying on the Soyuz is cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, a crewmember who will live and work aboard the orbiting outpost for about six months, the usual length of time people spend on the station.
“A year in space starts now,” NASA spokesperson Dan Huot said at launch. You can check out a video of the history-making launch as well.
It should take Padalka, Kelly and Kornienko about 6 hours to reach the space station. If all goes according to plan, the three crewmembers will link up with the space laboratory at around 9:36 p.m. EDT (0136 March 28 GMT), and you can watch the docking live on Space.com via NASA TV starting at 8:45 p.m. EDT (0045 March 28 GMT). The hatches between the two spacecraft are scheduled to open at 11:15 p.m. EDT (0315 March 28 GMT), allowing the three space fliers to enter the station. The hatch opening will also air live on Space.com at that time.
Scientists will use health and other data collected from Kelly and Kornienko during their yearlong mission to learn more about how long-duration spaceflight affects the human body. While researchers know a lot about what happens to people who live in space for six months, they don’t know how the body changes with a longer stay in microgravity.
A crewed Mars mission — a huge goal for NASA in the future — could take 500 days or more, according to the space agency. Therefore, learning more about the potential problems astronauts could experience during a long mission is important for NASA officials.
SOURCE: Miriam Kramer