Category Archives: One-Year Mission: International Space Station

“The Trip to Mars Starts Right Here”

NASA’s One-Year Mission in progress aboard the International Space Station is focused on manned deep-space missions beyond low Earth orbit: namely, a trip to Mars.

As explained in this NASA video, research being conducted on the space station will help physicians, scientists, and engineers better understand how to protect the human crews who will someday make the journey to the Red Planet.

“It’s a fabulous destination for us to explore,” Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, says in the video. “It has so many scientific questions that we could answer, and it might actually be the first place where we find life beyond the atmosphere of our own Earth.”

The historic One-Year Mission revolves around NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian Federal Space Agency cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, whose one-year mission of living and working on the space station began on March 27.

Tests under way on the space station involve myriad health concerns, such as fluid shifts into the chest and head, including fluid shifts suspected of negatively impacting vision; the loss of muscle and bone strength; and the psychological effects of spending months in space in cramped, isolated quarters.

The One-Year Mission is also studying how long-duration weightlessness affects fine motor skills and sleep — and how Kelly and Kornienko will re-adapt to the Earth’s gravity.

“Humankind is not going to limit itself with just near-Earth orbit,” Kornienko says in the video via English translation. “We need to explore new planets, our solar system. It is inevitable. And the one-year mission is the first step in that direction.”

Twin Studies on Twin Astronauts

With all eyes on eventually sending human crews to Mars, NASA’s One-Year Mission provides a rare opportunity to conduct parallel studies on identical twin astronauts: “one twin flying and one twin on the ground,” Craig Kundrot, deputy chief scientist of NASA’s Human Research Program, explains in this NASA video.

As detailed by the Human Research Program, the investigations conducted on twin brothers Scott and Mark Kelly — Scott is flying a one-year mission on the International Space Station, and Mark is being observed on Earth — “will provide NASA with broader insight into the subtle effects and changes that may occur in spaceflight as compared to Earth-based environments.”

NASA’s Human Research Program, at, details the four main research areas on which a total of 10 investigations on the identical twin brothers are being focused:

  • Human physiology: These investigations will look at how the spaceflight environment may induce changes in different organs like the heart, muscles or brain.
  • Behavioral health: This investigation will help characterize the effects spaceflight may have on perception and reasoning, decision making and alertness.
  • Microbiology/Microbiome: This investigation will explore the brothers’ dietary differences and stressors to find out how both affect the organisms in the twins’ guts.
  • Molecular/Omics: These investigations will look at the way genes in the cells are turned on and off as a result of spaceflight; and how stressors like radiation, confinement and microgravity prompt changes in the proteins and metabolites gathered in biological samples like blood, saliva, urine and stool.

Lettuce Get Ready for Mars

Space to Ground, as narrated by NASA Public Affairs Officer Dan Huot, provides fascinating weekly video updates about life aboard the International Space Station, including that of NASA’s One-Year Mission and research focusing on the effects of long-duration spaceflight on the human body.

The first highlight from this August 14 video illustrates how food grown in space — red romaine lettuce, in this case — will someday supplement the diets of human crews traveling to Mars. The video also details a Russian spacewalk outside the station and describes the differences between the U.S. and Russian spacewalking suits: American astronauts don their two-piece suits much like regular clothing. Cosmonauts crawl into their suits through a hatch in the back.

The historic One-Year Mission began on March 27 when NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian Federal Space Agency cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko were launched to the space station aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule.

In a U.S./Russian partnership, Kelly and Kornienko were each chosen to serve a yearlong mission in space — the longest mission assignment ever for an NASA astronaut. Research results of what happens to the space travelers’ bodies during this record-setting spaceflight will help NASA scientists and engineers better understand how to plan for even longer human missions to an asteroid and, eventually, Mars.

According to NASA, it typically takes robotic missions about eight months to travel to Mars. Officials are exploring ways to get human crews to Mars more quickly, but right now, it is projected that an overall mission duration would roughly range from one to three years.

With the goal of improving the health and safety of astronauts on long-duration spaceflights, the space station’s One-Year Mission is examining the physical, cognitive and psychological effects of such space travel, factoring in stress, isolation, fatigue, altered light-dark cycles, and the condition of microgravity, in which bones and muscles weaken.

Meanwhile, as reported by the New York Times, Kelly will have broken two American records when he returns to Earth next year: the longest single trip to space and the longest cumulative time in space. And Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, the current commander of the space station who flew with Kelly and Kornienko on the Soyuz capsule, has already claimed the record for total days spent in space.

Upon his scheduled return to Earth in September, Padalka will have spent a total of 878 days in space, surpassing the previous mark of 803.4 days by Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev.

Space travel records prior to Expedition 44, the current International Space Station mission (

  • Longest single trip to space: 437.7 days, Valeri Polyakov, Russia. January 1, 1994 to March 22, 1995, to the Russian space station Mir.
  • Longest cumulative time in space: 803.4 days, Sergei Krikalev, Russia (six spaceflights).
  • Longest single trip to space for a NASA astronaut: 215.4 days, Michael López-Alegria, Sept. 18, 2006 to April 21, 2007, to the International Space Station.
  • Longest cumulative time in space for a NASA astronaut: 381.6 days, Michael Fincke (three spaceflights)