NASA revealed Friday that its first ever year-long mission to the International Space Station (ISS) would launch in 2015 and it would feature two crew members, one each from America and Russia.
The crew members – one American astronaut and one Russian cosmonaut – will launch and land in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft and are scheduled to begin their voyage in the spring of 2015. The mission has been designed to collect valuable scientific data needed to send humans to new destinations in the solar system.
"In order for us to eventually move beyond low Earth orbit, we need to better understand how humans adapt to long-term spaceflight," said Michael Suffredini, International Space Station program manager, 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."
There had been talks for several months regarding this joint venture, which is now confirmed after Friday’s announcement. A Russian official said earlier this week that the mission was finalized, but NASA had simply said that it was under consideration, Space.com reported.
During the 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. This year-long stay is expected to allow for greater analysis of these effects and trends.
"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," said Julie Robinson, NASA's program scientist for the International Space Station. "What we will gain from this expedition will influence the way we structure our human research plans in the future."
While neither NASA nor the Russian Federal Space Agency, known as Roscosmos, have revealed the names of the crew, some earlier reports suggested that the NASA astronaut could be Peggy Whitson, who recently quit as the agency's chief astronaut to rejoin its active spaceflying ranks.
NASA said that the expedition will also serve as a test bed for future exploration technologies. Those innovative technologies, the logistics of the trip to and from the space station and the selection of the crew will be announced at a future time.
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