On Tuesday, March 1st, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly will complete his epic "Year in Space" mission aboard the International Space Station. Kelly and fellow "year-long" ISS crew member, cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, arrived at the station as part of Expedition 43 on March 28, 2015 aboard a Soyuz spacecraft.
While just shy of a full calendar year, Kelly's mission has been a unique opportunity for NASA to study the effects of human space flight on the human body because they had as close as you can get to a "control": Kelly's identical twin brother, Mark. Sending one twin to space for a year while the other remained Earth-bound will allow NASA to better understand the stress of long duration space flight, which is vital if we ever hope to travel further than the Moon.
Some of the changes the body undergoes in micro-gravity include redistribution of fluids (puffy faces), expansion of the spine (growing taller/longer), and a dulled olfactory sense (weakened ability to taste flavor). And those are just some of the immediate effects. For missions longer than a few days, astronauts also have to worry about bone density, muscle atrophy, and cosmic radiation. In fact, NASA has a cumulative radiation exposure limit for astronauts.
Scott Kelly's return to Earth will be followed by what I can only assume will be a countless medical exams to establish how his year in space changed him. In the meantime, the New York Times has quantified his time in space via sunsets, water consumed, and science performed. Personally, what I'll miss most about Kelly's presence aboard the ISS is his eye for beauty as evidenced by the 70+ photos he shared via Instagram from orbit.
NASA-TV will broadcast Kelly and Kornienko's return beginning Monday at 3:10pm when Kelly hands over command of the ISS to astronaut Tim Kopra and continuing Tuesday at 4:15pm EST when Kelly and Kornienko board their Soyuz. While you wait, you can relive the highlights of Kelly's mission with Time Magazine's interactive.
Here's some more geek from the week:
- The caterpillar to butterfly/moth transitions for these 19 different species are downright amazing. [INTERACTIVE]
- Barnacles are teaming up with plastic trash in the ocean to enable species to spread farther than ever before. Which may not be a good thing.
- Death Valley is in the middle of a "super bloom" right now. Follow the bloom via the National Park Service.
- Each drop of blood from an individual could be significantly different when it comes to diagnostic testing.
- This slo-mo video of the chemistry taking place when you light a match will blow your mind. [VIDEO]
- If you haven't been following Simone Giertz's robot series on YouTube, you are missing out. [VIDEO]
- The world's largest solar power plant just went online in the desert of Morocco.
- An amazing story of internet history about the first personal photo that was uploaded to the world wide web.
- Five years after Fermilab's Tevatron collider was shut down, data is still being processed and may have revealed a new particle.
- New photos from NASA's New Horizons mission reveal frozen canyons on the north pole of Pluto.
Keep on geeking!
@Summer_Ash, In-house Astrophysicist