How would you prepare to spend a year in space?
Would you want to go into space for 12 months? An American astronaut and Russian cosmonaut are two months shy of doing just that.
They will be launching to the International Space Station for an entire year. Already, though, scientists say they should look for even more people to send to space for long periods.
Two people in space for a long time are not enough from a scientific perspective. That's according to NASA's space station program scientist, Julie Robinson. The space agency wants to collect data from Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko. Then firm decisions on further one-year missions can be made.
NASA is the American space agency. It's partnering with the agencies in Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada. They are considering as many as 12 one-year test subjects for the space station. All but Russia are new to such long orbital hauls.
Kelly and Kornienko are space veterans. Each is in his 50s. They will rocket into orbit in late March from Kazakhstan. They will remain aboard the space station until the following March.
It will be the first time NASA sends someone into space for 12 months. Station stints typically last six months. The Russians are old pros at this. But there have been many medical and technological breakthroughs since Russia's yearlong missions from the 1980s and 1990s. So even more will be learned this time. The two sides will work together on many experiments.
NASA wants to learn how the body fares after a year in space. That's before it commits to more lengthy trips to Mars and elsewhere.
Right now, it's a big question mark. Just what happens beyond six months in orbit?
"What we don't know right now is what that six- to 12-month period looks like," Robinson said. "We're talking about it scientifically. But we're not really having deep discussions about it until we have the first information from the first two."
Kelly will provide an especially unique set of data. His bodily fluids and other measurements will be compared with those from his identical twin brother. Mark Kelly is a retired astronaut.
The U.S. space shuttle fleet was retired in 2011. Since then, Russian Soyuz spacecraft have served as the only means to ferry crews to and from the space station.
Critical thinking challenge: Why isn't NASA making any firm decisions about long-term stints in space?