American Astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko return to Earth after a full year in space on Tuesday (March 1, 2016). Their year in orbit has been so momentous in space history. With their return, there are a lot of exciting things to keep up with this week. NASA will be actively covering Kelly’s return with several events available for viewing and participation.

Why spend a year in space?

The official “overview” for the one-year mission states that the purpose of the two astronauts spending so much time in space is to gain more research on the “medical, psychological and biomedical challenges faced by astronauts during long-duration spaceflight.”  It is also a huge stepping stone in preparing to go to Mars. NASA wants to start testing boundaries and understand what it takes to thrive in long-duration missions in space. (Now all this long-duration talk makes me want to go watch The Martian again!) So we’re beginning plans for our missions to Mars! Who knows how long it might be until an actual mission to the red planet, but I know I’m excited that we’ve even began to think about the possibility. 

What have they been doing in space for a year?

One thing I learned at space camp is that life on the International Space Station is two things: hard work and a lot of fun. I can only imagine that Kelly and Kornienko have been up to both throughout the past year. As the mission is mostly to test the ability of the human body to function in space for long durations, most of the research they’ve done has been based on that goal. They’ve been doing functional and behavioral studies of all kinds. Functional studies mean tests and observations on the physical performance, changes and challenges the body goes through in space as compared to the same actions on Earth. Behavioral studies mean the study of how the brain reacts and handles the stress and challenges in space through studies of comprehension, memory, attention and reasoning of the crew. Read more about the research of the One-Year Mission Here (I promise it’s interesting).

But what about all the fun? I’ll just leave this update from Scott Kelly here:

and here:

Here’s what the return week will look like:

  • Starting Monday, Kelly’s role as Commander of the International Space Station comes to an end. He will hand over command to Tim Kopra in a (I assume really cool) Change of Command Ceremony. 
  • Then, Tuesday is the big day. NASA will broadcast the farewell, hatch closure, undocking, deorbit burn, and landing. 
  • Wednesday will be Kelly’s return to Houston, TX
  • There will be a Reddit AMA with NASA scientists and Doctors. They’ll answer questions about the year in space mission. Then there will be media briefings and we’ll get to hear Kelly share about his experience spending a year in space. 

So are you excited to hear about Kelly’s and Kornienko’s experience in space? I know I would have loved to be the one of the first people to spend a whole year in space, so I definitely look up to their contribution to science and for being a role model to many people. What do you think about the Year In Space Mission?

** BONUS: Check out this really cool documentary by Time about Kelly’s Year In Space!

This post is cross-posted here.