A year (actually 341 days) of orbiting at an average of 370km above Earth aboard the International Space Station is finally coming to a close for American astronaut Scott Kelly. Over the past 12 months, NASA has been conducting one of their most extensive biomedical studies yet, looking into the ways the human body reacts to extended periods of time living in space.
Scott Kelly and his identical twin brother and retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly were the key components of the study. While Scott has been living aboard the ISS, conducting various projects and experiments of his own, his brother Mark has remained on Earth. NASA have monitored Scott’s health throughout his year in space and upon his return to Earth will begin comparisons between the two brothers, to distinguish the effects that the zero gravity, atmosphere, and confined living quarters have had on Scott’s physical and mental wellbeing.
The ISS crew members are always performing experiments while orbiting Earth, as well as continuing maintenance o
f the ISS for future crew members. In January 2016, the crew managed to grow their first zinnia flower as part of the NASA plant-growth experiment ‘Veggie’ and have continued to research botany to learn how future crew members could become self-sustainable as they go further out in space.
Kelly recently worked with ground controllers on a project using Microsoft’s HoloLens device and internet connectivity. The project is seeking to enable station crews with extra assistance and could reduce training requirements and increase the astronauts work efficiency while in space! Amongst these, there have also been numerous repairs on the ISS, plumbing work, pressure leak checks and the preparation and execution of several space walks. In a recent interview, Kelly concluded that going outside the vehicle for his very first spacewalk was “the most memorable experience from this year”. The crew continue to work on projects regarding pilot testing, bone loss during long-term space flight, and participating in blood, urine and saliva sample collections to help doctors research into how the astronauts bodies are adapting to the space environment.
For now, Scott Kelly and his fellow One-Year crew mate, cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko are beginning to wrap up their year. They will undock from the ISS inside Soyuz TMA-18M with Soyuz Commander Sergey Volkov on Tuesday, landing in Kazakhstan at approximately 5:27 p.m. NZST Wednesday 2nd March.
It has been a well-publicised year for Kelly, as those on Earth have paid close attention to his regularly updated social networks with status’ of his current projects and incredible photos of Earth from his spot aboard the ISS. It may be the end of the ‘Year in Space’ but it’s really only the beginning. Upon Kelly’s return to Earth, NASA scientists will continue to conduct extensive experiments on both Scott and Mark. Thanks to Scott’s commitment to his long-term space flight, the research he has participated in throughout his year and the coming months will play a significant role in the future of human space travel.