The first year-long mission aboard the International Space Station is set to begin on Friday.
NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian Cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will become the first humans to spend a year in space aboard the International Space Station when they liftoff from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft at 3:42 p.m. EDT on Friday, March 27.
Kelly and Kornienko will join Russian Cosmonaut Gennady Padalka as a part of Expedition 43 to the International Space Station. Unlike the others, Padalka’s stay aboard the orbiting space station will last only six months.
While this won’t be the longest human spaceflight in history — Russian Cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov holds the record for the longest continuous human spaceflight spending more than 437 days on Mir — this mission will break a number of human spaceflight records.
This mission will set the record for the longest stay aboard the International Space Station. It will also break the record for the most time in space by a U.S. astronaut, currently held by Mike Fincke with 382 days spent in space. Kelly will be spending 342 days aboard the space station, culminating in a total of 522 days in space.
Previous missions to the space station typically consisted of stays of about four to six months. This will be the first year-long stay aboard the International Space Station, providing insights into the physical and psychological effects of prolonged spaceflight. Understanding the effects of long-duration space missions is a crucial step in preparation for future human missions to Mars.
“By doubling the length of this mission, researchers hope to better understand how the human body reacts and adapts to long-duration spaceflight,” NASA said in a statement. “This knowledge is critical as NASA looks toward human journeys deeper into the solar system, including to and from Mars, which could last 500 days or longer.”
NASA will be providing live coverage of Expedition 43 to the International Space Station starting at 2:30 p.m. EDT on Friday, March 27. NASA’s live coverage continues at 8:45 p.m. EDT when Expedition 43 approaches the International Space Station. Docking is scheduled to occur at 9:36 p.m. EDT.