The U.S. and Russian space agencies have selected two men for a one-year mission aboard the International Space Station. Astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will head to the orbiting laboratory on a Russian Soyuz rocket in the spring of 2015, and return to Kazakhstan 12 months later.
The mission will include collecting scientific data about how the human body reacts and adapts to weightlessness and other conditions of space. The information will be used to help reduce the risks associated with future long-term missions, for exploration of the moon, asteroids and ultimately, Mars.
Crews are usually assigned to the ISS for no more than six months, and data from those missions have provided insight into the effects of microgravity on bone density, muscle mass, strength, vision and other aspects of human physiology. This year-long stay will allow for greater analysis of these effects and trends.
Such an extended mission would not be unprecedented. A Russian cosmonaut spent nearly 438 consecutive days aboard the Mir space station from January 1994 to March 1995.
Kelly and Kornienko, who have worked together on previous missions, will begin training for their mission early next year. Both men have already each logged more than 176 days in space.