Space Station Welcomes Three New Crew Members

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WASHINGTON — Three new crew members arrived at the International Space Station March 27 after being launched aboard a Soyuz rocket earlier that day from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, NASA said.

The new arrivals included NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, who will spend a year at the ISS as part of a study of the space environment’s long-term effects on the human body. The two joined the station’s Expedition 43 crew along with cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, who will spend six months aboard the outpost, NASA said.

Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly (left) and Roscosmos cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko. Credit: NASA/Bill Stafford

“Scott Kelly’s mission is critical to advancing the administration’s plan to send humans on a journey to Mars,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a prepared statement. “We’ll gain new, detailed insights on the ways long-duration spaceflight affects the human body.”

The new members bring the space station’s total crew size to six. The other three members, including Expedition 43 commander Terry Virts of NASA, have been aboard since November and will return to Earth in May.

After Virts departs, Padalka will become the Expedition 44 crew commander. He will return in September, while Kelly and Kornienko will stay on the station until March 2016, NASA said.

During their one-year stay, Kelly and Kornienko will be closely monitored to see how they adapt to long-term spaceflight. Studies will focus on performance during and after their stay, sleep patterns, exercise routines, immune systems, vision and other areas.

The data will be used to determine whether there are ways to reduce the psychological stress and health risks of long-duration spaceflight. Kelly’s identical twin brother, former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, will be monitored on the ground for comparison purposes.