October 3, 2012
Year-Long Manned Missions In Space Could Be A Reality By 2015
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
It has been decided by International Space Station (ISS) partners that special crews aboard the orbiting lab will partake in year-long missions potentially beginning in March 2015, doubling the current standard of six months in space, according to a report by Ria Novosti news agency.
“The principal decision has been made and we just have to coordinate the formalities,” Alexei Krasnov, the head of Roscosmos human space missions was quoted as saying on Tuesday. The decision was made at the International Astronautical Congress in Italy this week.
This is confirmation of an earlier rumor that space agencies were discussing longer mandated missions. The first year-long test will be “experimental” and will include a two-person crew.
“Two members of the international crew, a Russian cosmonaut and a NASA astronaut will be picked to carry out this yearlong mission,” Krasnov said, adding that planning for the missions has already been underway. “If the mission proves to be effective, we will discuss sending year-long missions to ISS on a permanent basis.”
Roscosmos indicated that it has been mulling over the notion for some time. In 2010-2011, the European Space Agency´s and Russian Space Agency´s Mars 500 test mission--completed on Earth as a 500-day simulated journey to Mars and back--has given space officials an idea of what longer-duration missions might be like aboard the ISS.
With the possibility of future manned missions to Mars, Universe Today in April asked John Grunsfeld, NASA´s associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, about the possibility of longer ISS missions in order to test the physiological and psychological demands a prolonged mission could have on humans.
Grunsfeld noted then that longer missions would not be necessary to complete such tests.
“A 500-day mission would have a six-month cruise to Mars and a six-month cruise back,” he said. “When we send a crew up to the ISS on the Soyuz, they spend six months in weightlessness and so we are already mimicking that experiment today.”
However, a year-long mission on the ISS would certainly provide officials and astronauts a better understanding of the long-term effects spaceflight would have on human health.
Even if ISS partners launch a year-long manned mission to the ISS, it won´t be the first time humans have spent more than six-months in space. Russian cosmonaut Valery Polyakov spent 437 consecutive days in space aboard the Mir Space Station from January 1994 to March 1995.