October 7, 2012
Yearlong Space Station Mission To Begin In 2015
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports — Your Universe Online
In order to collect scientific data needed to allow astronauts to depart for new destinations in the Solar System, two crew members will be spending an entire year living on the International Space Station (ISS).
The project, which was officially announced by NASA officials on Friday, is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2015. As part of the mission, one American astronaut and one Russian cosmonaut will live on board the ISS for 12 months.
This will allow officials to study how the human body will react to prolonged exposure in the harsh environments of space, as well as collect data regarding the overall performance and physical wellbeing of the crew members and find ways to reduce risks associated with future missions.
"In order for us to eventually move beyond low Earth orbit, we need to better understand how humans adapt to long-term spaceflight," ISS Program Manager Michael Suffredini said in a statement. "The space station serves as a vital scientific resource for teaching us those lessons, and this yearlong expedition aboard the complex will help us move closer to those journeys."
"We have gained new knowledge about the effects of spaceflight on the human body from the scientific research conducted on the space station, and it is the perfect time to test a one-year expedition aboard the orbital laboratory," added Julie Robinson, NASA's program scientist for the space station. "What we will gain from this expedition will influence the way we structure our human research plans in the future."
According to Reuters reporter Irene Klotz, the primary areas of concern associated with spending long periods of time in the weightlessness of space are bone, cardiovascular, and ocular health.
Only four individuals have ever spent more than a year in space, with cosmonaut Valery Polyakov's 438-day mission on board the Mir space station in 1994 and 1995 standing as the record, Klotz said. Michael Lopez-Alegria holds the U.S. record, having spent 215 days on board the ISS in 2006 and 2007.
"If the mission proves to be effective, we will discuss sending yearlong missions ... on a permanent basis," Alexei Krasnov, head of human spaceflight with Roscosmos, told Russian reporters late last week, according to Reuters.