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Astronaut chosen for record-breaking space voyage

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 27th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

It's going to be a very long year for Capt. Scott Kelly. In 2015, Kelly will spend a year confined to the International Space Station. His mission will set a new long-term endurance record for an American astronaut. NASA announced his selection on Monday. He will join a cosmonaut on the mission.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The goal of the mission will be to observe the effects of long-term weightlessness on the human body. Scientists will monitor their health of both Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Korienko, who will be making the flight with him.

Scientists are eager to study the very long-term effects of weightlessness on the human body. It is already well understood that without the force of gravity, physical exertions ins pace are much different than on Earth. This causes atrophy in many muscle groups as well as other physiological changes.

Over time, those changes can be harmful and make returning to Earth very difficult. Even astronauts on shuttle missions were monitored by doctors after their return, despite being aloft for less than two weeks on average.

The importance of such a mission is great. If humans ever plan to travel to Mars or spend longer periods in space conducting research, they will have to contend with the effects of weightlessness on the body. A mission to Mars could easily take two years or more to complete.

The space program itself is beneficial to those of us on the ground. A number of inventions including cellular service, satellite television, and microwave ovens, as well as many health innovations, are the result of scientific breakthroughs which are the product of human spaceflight. 

The two (lucky?) astronauts will depart from Baikonur Cosmodrome in 2015 travelling aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

Capt. Scott Kelly is also the brother of Cmdr. Mark Kelly, who is married to Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. GIffords survived a shooting in 2011, and retired from public office in January 2012. Mark Kelly was the commander of the final shuttle mission which was concluded in 2011.

The longest time ever spent in space by one man on a single mission was 438 days spent by Valery Polyakov, onboard the space station Mir between January 1994 and March 1995.

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