Unique astronaut job perk: Create a SHOOTING STAR by having a dump
NASA celebrates halfway milestone on longhaul space-life study
It's celebration time aboard the International Space Station as 'nauts Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko gallop past the halfway point of their "One Year Crew" extended space sojourn, and share with us various details of life as a long term space resident.
The main purpose of the duo's extended stay is to gauge the long-terms effects of living in space, with a view to future manned trips to Mars. The mission "also carries potential benefits for humans on Earth, from helping patients recover after long periods of bed rest to improved monitoring for people whose bodies are unable to fight infections".
Handily, in the case of Kelly, scientists have the astronaut's identical twin brother Mark, himself a former 'naut, who's back on Earth acting as a control.
Mark (right) and Scott Kelly. Pic: NASA
The 'naut twosome blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan atop a Soyuz TMA-16M on 27 March.
As we reported earlier this year, both Kelly brothers were inoculated with a flu vaccine, to see how this performs on low gravity. The twins' gut bacteria will also be compared, as will "the rate of degradation in their telomeres – the nucleotide sequences that cap off human chromosomes".
Other studies including Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko include the "ambitious" Fluid Shifts experiment, which "tests the hypothesis that the normal shift of fluids to the upper body in weightlessness contributes to increased intracranial pressure and decreased visual capacity in astronauts".
Scott Kelly tries out the Chibis suit, monitored by Mikhail Kornienko (left) and fellow cosmonaut Gennady Padalka. Pic: NASA
As part of this probe, 'nauts are trying out the Russian "Lower Body Negative Pressure" (LBNP) or Chibis suit. Scientists hope this will mitigate the effects of fluid shift by "returning the fluids to the lower body".
Meanwhile, NASA's top boffins will be analysing what happens to other fluids – and the astronauts' turds. “The waste will be discharged at intervals from the space station and will burn up in the Earth's atmosphere and look like shooting stars,” the space agency said in an infographic released on Monday.
To celebrate the six-month milestone, NASA has produced a short, rousing vid trumpeting mankind's eventual voyage to the Red Planet:
Scott Kelly recently enthused: "I think the legacy of this mission will be based on the science of having us in space for a year. The great data we collected, what we learned about being in space for this long and how that will help our journey to Mars someday." ®