Two veteran spacefarers, Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko, have been selected by NASA, the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and their international partners for a yearlong mission aboard the International Space Station in 2015. The mission will include collecting scientific data important to future human exploration of our solar system.
Kelly and Kornienko would launch aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in spring 2015 and would land in Kazakhstan in spring 2016. Kelly was a backup crew member for the station's Expedition 23/24, where Kornienko served as a flight engineer.
According to NASA, the objective of the expedition abroad the ISS is to understand better how the human body reacts and adapts to the harsh environment of space. Scientists hope that the data from the expedition will help inform the current assessments of crew performance and health. It is also expected to help validate countermeasures to reduce the risks associated with the future exploration as NASA plans for missions around the Moon, an asteroid and ultimately Mars.
William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA, has said that the experience and skills that Kelly and Kornienko have align with the mission's requirements.
“The one-year increment will 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,” said Gerstenmaier.
Kelly, a retired captain in the U.S. Navy, is from West Orange, N.J. He has degrees from the State University of New York Maritime College and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He served as a pilot on space shuttle mission STS-103 in 1999, commander on STS-118 in 2007, flight engineer on the International Space Station Expedition 25 in 2010 and commander of Expedition 26 in 2011. Kelly has logged more than 180 days in space.
Kornienko, on the other hand, is from the Syzran, Kuibyshev region of Russia. He is a former paratrooper officer and graduated from the Moscow Aviation Institute as a specialist in airborne systems. His association with the space industry started in 1986 when he worked at Rocket and Space Corporation-Energia as a spacewalk handbook specialist.
Kornienko was selected as an Energia test cosmonaut candidate in 1998 and trained as an International Space Station Expedition 8 backup crew member. He served as a flight engineer of Expedition 23/24 in 2010 and has logged more than 176 days in space.
According to NASA, in the last 12 years of permanent human presence aboard the space station, scientists and researchers have gained valuable and often surprising data on the effects of microgravity on bone density, muscle mass, strength, vision and other aspects of human physiology. Scientists believe that this yearlong stay will allow for greater analysis of these effects and trends.
Kelly and Kornienko will begin a two-year training program in the U.S., Russia and other partner nations starting early next year.