NASA astronaut Scott Kelly is pictured in the Cupola of the International Space Station. (Photo : Reuters)
An American astronaut will be attempting to fly the longest spaceflight ever for a U.S. spaceman.
NASA announced Monday that they had selected astronaut Scott Kelly to partner with Roscosmos astronaut Russian Mikhail Korniyenko to take part on a one-year mission aboard the International Space Station in 2015.
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Kelly, a native of West Orange, N.J., and retired U.S. Navy captain, and Korniyenko will launch on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft from Kazakhstan in the spring of 2015--where they will return the following spring--to take part in a study that will help scientists determine and validate countermeasures to reduce the risks associated with future exploration while NASA prepares mission plans to explore around Earth's moon, an asteroid and ultimately, Mars.
During the 12 years of permanent human presence aboard the International Space Station, NASA says its scientists and researchers have gained "valuable, and often surprising" data on the effects that microgravity has on bone density, muscle mass, strength, vision and other aspects of how the human body works. This yearlong stay that Kelly and Korniyenko will take part in should allow NASA to study these effects and trends with greater analysis.
The longest an American has ever been in space was seven months during a mission several years back. Kelly, who has logged more than 180 days in space, will break that record by five months with his 2015 mission.
Kelly and Kornienko will begin a two-year training program in the U.S., Russia and other partner nations starting early next year, according to NASA.
A veteran of three space missions, Kelly has served as pilot on STS-103 in 1999 and was the Mission Commander on STS-118 in 2007, according to his NASA bio. Following STS-103, Kelly served as NASA's Director of Operations in Star City, Russia, and is currently serving as the International Space Station Operations Branch Chief within the Astronaut Office.
"Congratulations to Scott and Mikhail on their selection for this important mission," William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said in a statement Monday. "Their skills and previous experience aboard the space station 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."
According to Fox News, Kelly's identical twin brother, Mark, is married to former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who retired after she was critically wounded in an assassination attempt in January 2011, during which Scott Kelly was living aboard the space station.
Neither astronaut was available to comment to the press Monday, according to NASA, but press conferences scheduled for next week should outline the mission.