Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Ocular Health Study

NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly assists Japanese astronaut 
Kimya Yui with the Ocular Health study. 
Photo Credit: NASA
It has been a few weeks since the last "experiment of the week," so it is about time for another one. This week, it's the Ocular Health study.

There are hundreds of experiments ongoing on the International Space Station. One of the most prominent is the Prospective Observational Study of Ocular Health in ISS Crews. The main goal is to gather data on crew members' visual health during and after long-duration space station mission.

In space, fluids in the body shift toward the head. On Earth, gravity pulls fluids down, so the heart and other muscles have to work harder to push fluid up. In space, the muscles work just has hard, so the body's fluid distribution is altered. This is why astronauts typically have "fat heads" and "chicken legs" while floating in the space station.

Some astronauts have noticed their vision blur slightly while on longer space mission. It is believed this is due to extra intracranial pressure from the upward fluid shift pushing on the eye. I can be so bad, that some astronauts wear special "space glasses" after a while.
A close up of the device used to gather eye data. 
Photo Credit: NASA

The investigation looks at who is most effected by the change and how long it persists after crews return to Earth. It is possible, that prolonged pressure could permanently damage vision, and even cause blindness.

Data is still being gathered, but NASA wants to solve this problem before astronauts and cosmonauts head off to deep space destinations, such as Mars. Nobody wants astronauts on Mars to go blind in the middle of a flight.

Additionally, it is hoped that research into this problem will help with terrestrial eye problems, such as glaucoma.

For more information, NASA has a fact sheet HERE.

Video courtesy of NASA

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Experiment of the Week: Haptics-1

A ground concept of a haptic input device. The 
Haptic experiments on ISS will one day allow for 
astronauts to control robots on the surface of a planet 
or moon remotely from orbit. Photo Credit: ESA
Starting with this post, I will aim to write about one experiment or science rack each week. This week's experiment is the Haptics-1 experiment.

First, what is "haptics?" Haptics is any form of touch sensation, in particular, relating to perception and manipulation of objects using senses.

Haptics-1 is a European Space Agency (ESA) investigation into remote-controlled robotic operation and how to make human operators "feel" what a robot "feels." According to ESA, future human exploration of planets will almost certainly involve robots controlled by humans. Robots can do specialized tasks in harsh environments, while humans are more fragile. Humans are unrivaled, however, at adaptive quick-thinking - robots are not. Telerobotics allow for a "best of both words" situation where humans can control a robot in near real time. But in order to control something efficiently, feedback is required.

A cell phone has haptic feedback. When you press a button on your on-screen keyboard, the phone usually vibrates to signal that you have pressed something. Robots being controlled from orbit above Mars will need similar feedback for the controller. With the proper feedback, an astronaut could use a robot to adjudge the force needed to grip a rock or tool the right amount.

While work like this could be done on Earth, one major unknown is how astronauts experience haptic feedback in the microgravity environment of space.

NASA astronaut Barry Willmore operates the Haptics-1 
joystick. The simple-looking lever is connected to a 
servomotor that can withstand any force an astronaut 
might unleash on it. Photo Credit: NASA
Haptics-1 aims to answer that question by astronauts using a joystick to control games, and simple tasks. By studying how the astronaut reacts to the feedback, engineers can design systems tailored to future astronauts on journeys to Mars.

The joystick is highly advanced. It can sense motion that humans cannot feel and can withstand an astronauts kick and still function properly. It is strapped to the waist of an astronaut as to not push the astronaut away.

Haptics-1 was the first haptic telerobotics experiment done in space. It was launched on the final Automated Transfer Vehicle, ATV-5, in August 2014. Since then, Haptics-2 and "Interact" have launched. They are a bit more evolved and all three are still being used aboard ISS. Whereas Haptics-1 is more about real-time force feedback, Haptics-2 "extends" the human arm from space to ground. By controlling a lever on ISS, it moves one on Earth. A person on the ground can move that same lever and effectively "shake hands" with the astronaut. Interact goes a step further by allowing the astronaut to control basic functions of a robot on the surface of Earth.

All three are part of the METERON project. METERON stands for Multi-Purpose End to End Robotics Operations Network. The goal is to "test the waters" on human operation of robots from space - something that, until now, has never been done. 

Teleoperating robots requires the Internet to send commands and receive information. Because distances in space are so vast, signal times can take anywhere from seconds (at the Moon) to upwards of 45 minutes (at Mars). The creation of a new network protocol called the Disruption Tolerant Network assures correct operation, even if signal is lost.

For more information visit ESA's METERON page. Learn about the three flight experiments here.
Andreas Mogensen teleoperates the Interact rover from space.
Video courtesy of ESA

Saturday, October 3, 2015

New directions for my life

An Atlas V 551 launches with the Navy's fourth Mobile User
 Objective System on Sept. 2, 2015. Photo by me!
This won't be one of my usual blog posts. It's more of a status update for what has been going on in my life.

I am a college student studying mass media at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. School is in full swing at the moment and, while I'm trying to insure that I get decent grades, I am a managing editor for the school newspaper, the Washburn Review.

These two things, alone, take up the vast majority of my time. I have been studying and running a student newspaper. But, I haven't forgotten about this blog. I still believe there should be a source for all things International Space Station.

It gets more complicated though. Right when school started, I got selected by the United Launch Alliance to go down to Florida to be part of their ULASocial to view the launch of an Atlas V 551 rocket. The rocket was launching the fourth Mobile User Objective System for the U.S. Navy.

Because the Atlas V launch was during
 twilight before dawn, the conditions
 were just right for this beautiful contrail
 formation to occur. Photo by me!
While I was down there I met Jason Rhian, who is the founder of SpaceFlight Insider. He offered me a freelance writing gig. Since then I have written seven articles for them.

So now I am doing school, running a student newspaper and writing (as well as editing) for SpaceFlight Insider. I am extremely busy. But I still have a strong passion for ISS and I plan to keep going strong on the blogs and the videos.

Because I have been getting into the role of a managing editor for the Washburn Review, I have had literally zero time for making videos about the history of ISS. I have notes for the Apollo Soyuz Test Project, but no script. As it is fall break, I anticipate that I will have a little bit more time to work on the videos.

In the mean time, I do plan on posting more blog entry's here. I will be focusing more on the science going onboard ISS, and, when I post something on SpaceFlight Insider, I will repost them here.

I hope you all understand and will continue to read this blog. Please follow this blog and tell your friends and, as always, if you or someone you know is interesting in helping, email me.

Ad Astra!

A writer's job never stops. While I was in Florida waiting for the Atlas V to launch,
I still had to help my team in Kansas finish production of the weekly newspaper!
Photo courtesy of Reuben Worthington

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Chinese are going to the International Space Station, sort of...

Credit: NanoRacks
For the first time, a Chinese experiment will be headed to the International Space Station, albeit through a commercial agreement with Houston-based NanoRacks LLC.

The agreement works around a law from the United States Congress that forbids NASA from working in any way with the Chinese. The fear is that China could potentially steal information and/or hardware and use it for their own purposes.

Because NanoRacks, not NASA, is dealing with the Chinese, who are paying $200,000, nobody is breaking the law.

Jeff Manber, who founded NanoRacks, agreed to take a DNA experiment to the ISS next year on board a SpaceX Dragon capsule. The experiment is lead by Professor Deng Yulin of the Beijing Institute of Technology.

According to NASA Watch, a NanoRacks source said the company worked to assure compliance with a 2011 spending bill Amendment which restricts formal NASA cooperation with the Chinese Space Program.

NanoRacks assures that the money flows from China to the U.S. and no hardware or technology flows to China, except the return of data and experiment samples. Manber said the deal is purely commercial and was negotiated with NASAs blessing.

Because of the law forbidding NASA to work with the Chinese in space, China isn't allowed to be part of the ISS program. NASA administrator Charles Bolden thinks the restrictions are too strict and NASA should at least be able to communicate with Chinese officials.

Since NanoRacks flies via the SpaceX Dragon capsule, it is unclear exactly when the Chinese experiment will fly. The Falcon 9 rocket, which carries the Dragon, is currently grounded till at least late September due to a mishap during the June 28, 2015 launch when the second stage over-pressurized causing a rapid unplanned disassembly.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Booze in space

The Suntory space samples - Credit: Suntory
The "best whisky in the world" is getting ready to be launched to the International Space Station.

Suntory, a brewing and distillery company based out of Tokyo, announced they will be sending samples of their whisky - named the best whisky in the world by Jim Murray's Whisky Bible - to the ISS on the next launch of the Japanese cargo ship, the H-II Transfer Vehicle, on August 16, 2015.

These samples, however, are not for the astronauts and cosmonauts. They are for an experiment to test the effects of zero-gravity on the aging process. Their will be six samples of the whisky, in addition to other types of alcohol to learn how the space environment can effect how alcohol ages. 

The samples will be stored on the Japanese Kibo module on the ISS. One group of samples will be returned to earth in about a year, while the rest will stay in space for at least two years.

This isn't the first alcohol to be sent to the ISS. The Ninkasi Brewing Company sent yeast to the station earlier this year to try to brew a craft beer they are calling Ground Control Stout. 

Learning about how alcohol reacts and brews in space is one thing, drinking it is another.

Alcoholic beverages have never officially be part of any American astronauts' space diet. It has, however, been part of Russian cosmonauts' diet.

According to an article written in 2010 by Alan Boyle for NBC news, retired cosmonaut, Alexander Lazutkin said Russian doctors have sent alcoholic beverages to space with the space flyers to help neutralize tension.

During Lazutkin's stay aboard the Mir space station in 1997, a Progress cargo ship collided with the station, causing a leak that nearly forced an evacuation. Lazutkin said he and his crew mates definitely had something to drink right after that.

While adult beverages have been drank on past space stations, and potentially occurs on the ISS too, beer isn't one of those.

Beer is carbonated. Because there is no gravity, there is no buoyant force pushing the gas bubbles upward. This not only effects the taste of the beverage, it makes drinking it somewhat uncomfortable since the bubbles stagnate inside the beverage even when inside an astronauts stomach. Because of that, astronauts can't burp out the excess gas from the carbonation. And when they are able to, the burp can be uncomfortably wet.

The Japanese HTV launches at 8:01 a.m. CDT (1301 GMT) on August 16, 2015. In addition to the samples of whisky, it will carry much needed equipment and supplies to the ISS.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Expedition 44 fully staffed, Russia commits to station to 2024

Expedition 44 crew patch - Credit: NASA
The crew of Expedition 44 became fully staffed at six people when the Soyuz TMA-17M docked with the Russian Rassvet module of the International Space Station.

Launch occurred at 21:02 UTC (4:02 p.m. CDT) on  22 July 2015 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Onboard were NASAs Kjell Lindgren, Russia's Oleg Kononenko and Japan's Kimiya Yui.

Hatches were opened just under eight hours later at 4:56 UTC (11:56 p.m. CDT). Kononenko was the first to enter the space station to join the three currently residing onboard: Russia's Gannady Padalka and Mikhail Korniyenko and NASAs Scott Kelly. 

Kelly and Korniyenko are scheduled to be on the ISS till March 2016.

A little over a week later, Russia formally notified ISS partners that they will continue the partnership at least to 2024.

The United States and the Canadian Space Agency have already committed to 2024 leaving only the European space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency as the only partners yet to make a decision. ESA is expected to do so in late 2016.

Assessments of each of the components of the ISS show that the station could remain operational without any major funding increase for repairs to at least 2028.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Orbital Velocity's History of the ISS begins production

After a couple of months of set-up and research, Orbital Velocity's History of the International Space Station is being filmed. Ideally there will be a video every week regarding that series. Eventually, smaller videos on particular space station parts and experiments will be created. The goal is to create a database of information where people can find out about their International Space Station.

The following is a playlist for the history series, alternatively, you can find it in the menu above under "ISS History."

Feel free to subscribe to the Youtube page, and follow Orbital Velocity on Twitter and Facebook!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Falcon 9 rocket fails during launch of Dragon supply ship

Falcon 9 breaks apart mid-flight. Credit: NASA
Yesterday, Space Exploration Technologies' seventh resupply flight carrying the Dragon cargo ship bound for the International Space Station ended in failure about two minutes 19 seconds into flight.

The Falcon 9 rocket launched on June 28, 2015 at 9:21 CDT at Cape Canaveral. Everything happened normally in flight all the way to, and through, Max Q, the time in the launch where aerodynamic stress loads on the rocket are at a maximum. 

Shortly after that, a small plum appeared near the top of the second stage of the rocket, and quickly engulfed the whole rocket. Moments later, the rocket disintegrated. This was the Falcon 9s first launch failure, and SpaceXs first complete loss of mission since 2008.

 NASA TV coverage of the SpaceX launch

"Falcon 9 experienced a problem shortly before first stage shutdown. Will provide more info as soon as we review the data," said Elon Musk, the chief executive officer and founder of SpaceX, in a twitter post.

A few minutes later on twitter, he reported there was an "overpressure event" in the second stages liquid oxygen tank. He said the data suggests a counter-intuitive cause.

The second stage engine was in the process of getting ready to take over within the next minute of flight, but before staging could occur, the anomaly happened.

International Docking Adapter 1 at the payload processing
facility. A second one was scheduled to launch later
this year. Credit: NASA
The Dragon capsule riding on top of the Falcon 9 was carrying a multitude of cargo for the orbiting outpost. The biggest loss was the International Docking Adapter, one of two adapters that will be used to support commercial crew dockings to the ISS.

This was the third space station cargo ship to fail in eight months. On October 28, 2014, Orbital Sciences Antares rocket failed seconds after liftoff, destroying the Cygnus Capsule. The Russian Progress cargo ship, launched by a Soyuz rocket, failed shortly after orbital insertion on April 28, 2015. Shortly after it was discovered that the ship was spinning out of control, and would not be able to dock to the station. It later reentered the atmosphere.

The CRS-7 contingency press conference.
Credit: NASA/Glenn Benson
During a press conference a few hours later, William Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said the station crew in orbit would be fine for the time being.

There are enough supplies to support the crew, which will increase to six in July, though October. However, a number of supply ships will soon be launching, including the a re-flight of the Russian Progress ship. Additionally, a Japanese HTV cargo ship will be launching in august.

Gerstenmaier said that NASA was working with Orbital Sciences to move up the next launch of their Cygnus spacecraft, which will launch on an Atlas 5 rocket, from December to as soon as October.

Michael Suffredini, space station program manager, said there are parts for a third IDA; the second one will fly on a future SpaceX launch as soon as flight resume.

Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer of SpaceX, said she expects the accident investigation to last between four and six months.

More information will be posted on this blog as it becomes available.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Soyuz TMA-16M launches Scott Kelly to space station

TMA-16M launches! - Credit: NASA
And it begins. Scott Kelly, Mikhail Korniyenko and Gennady Padalka are on their way to the International Space Station. Launch was at 2:42 p.m. CDT, but it was 1:42 a.m. in Kazakhstan. 

The night sky was clear with the only light, besides the stars, was coming from the launchpad lights. As soon as the rocket engines ignited, night was no more. The Soyuz rocket began to rise, and soon, it was well on its way to orbit.

The crew is on a "fast track" to the station and will arrive in about six hours after four orbits, as opposed to a two day trek to the station.

How exactly does the Soyuz get to the station? The YouTube channel SmarterEveryday did a great interview with Scott Kelly, and Reid Wiseman to find out exactly that. You can watch the video below.

Docking is scheduled for 8:36 p.m. CDT tonight. They will dock to the space facing Poisk module.

Over the course of the yearlong mission, two major anniversaries will pass. The first is the 40th anniversary of the Apollo-Soyuz test project, the first joint mission between American and Russia (then the USSR). The second is the 15th anniversary of continuous crew operations at ISS.

To follow the research being done on ISS while Kelly is on orbit visit

To see what Kelly is tweeting, follow @stationCDRKelly.

Launch today, kelly patch history

Kelly, left, Padalka, middle, and Korniyenko looking
at their launch vehicle. - Credit: NASA
Today is the day! Scott Kelly and Mikhail Korniyenko will be launching to space for one year. Actually, to be more precise, it will be 342 days. Watch on NASA TV (coverage begins at 1:30 p.m. CDT) or follow #YearInSpace on twitter to keep up to date. 

The launch is scheduled at 2:42 p.m. with docking at the International Space Station scheduled for 8:36 p.m.

In the hours before the launch of Kelly, Korniyenko and Gennady Padalka on Soyuz TMA-16M, it might be worth to note that Kelly is the NASA astronaut with the most patches with his name on it for a mission. 

Kelly with his one year patch.
- Credit: NASA
In fact, in a story by Robert Pearlman of CollectSpace, Pearlman writes about a particular name patch that was supposed to launch to orbit back in late October 2014 aboard the Cygnus cargo capsule. The rocket carrying it exploded seconds after liftoff.

Apparently those patches survived unscathed, and Kelly will be taking them on his launch today as a memento of good luck.

Kelly has a number of other patches associated with him. In total, he has 11 patches with his name on it. This doesn't include honorary patches and patches that had to be changed. The person with the most space mission patches is Gennady Padalka, with 13 patches.

Read the CollectSpace article here.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Kelly launches soon, SpaceX too

Kelly and Korniyenko's one year mission patch.
- Credit: NASA
It is T minus 5 days till Scott Kelly, along with Mikhail Korniyenko and Gennady Padalka launch to the ISS. Kelly and Korniyenko will be staying aboard for a whole year before returning to earth in March of 2016.

Liftoff is scheduled for 27 March 2015 at 2:42 p.m. CDT in Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan aboard Soyuz TMA-16M. 

Kelly has been tweeting regularly about his preparations to launch, and he plans to continue tweeting regularly in space, something that has become common of most American astronauts.

"I'm thinking this is about to get real. #YearInSpace"
- Credit: @StationCDRKelly
The 51 year old Kelly has spent more than 180 days in space to date on two space shuttle missions and aboard the ISS on the expedition 25/26 crew increment. 

On this mission, NASA has the opportunity to compare how his body reacts to being in space for a year with his identical twin brother, Mark, who will stay on Earth.

Mark was also an astronaut and spent over 54 days in space on four shuttle missions. He is currently retired. 

The purpose of the year long mission is to better understand how the human body reacts to longer missions, such as a mission to mars, which will be on the order of 30 or more months long. One of the main focuses will be on the human eye. It has been found that microgravity effects astronauts' vision. It is believed to be caused by the swelling of tissue at the back of the eye due to fluid flow. This distorts the eye's shape. It can cause near sightedness and farsightedness.

A photo of a CRS-3 at the launch pad in April 2014.
- Credit: NASA
Two weeks after Kelly and crew launch to the station, SpaceX will be in the spotlight launching its next Dragon capsule to ISS.

SpX-6 or CRS-6 will launch on April 10 at 4:42 p.m. CDT. This comes after a delay with another Falcon 9 rocket that was to launch a European-built communications satellite for the government of Turkmenistan. SpaceX decided to flip the order of launches as to keep the flow going, and not cause large delays with the overall manifest.

This Falcon 9 rocket will have landing legs affixed to it's first stage and will attempt to land on the company's Automated Spaceport Drone Ship known as "Just Read The Instructions."

If the landing is successful, it will be the first time SpaceX has recovered a booster stage, and the first time a flown orbital class rocket has landed on an ocean going platform.

SpaceX intends to use the first recovered stage as a test article in New Mexico to determine hardware limits, such as how many times the stage can be reused.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Station trio comes home

TMA-14M above fog before landing. Credit: NASA
Three people fell back to earth on March 11, 2015 in their Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft after spending 167 days in space.

NASA astronaut Barry Wilmore, and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyaev and Yelena Serova undocked their Soyuz from the International Space Station earlier that day 

Yelena Serova was only the fourth Russian woman to fly in space.

Berry "Butch" Wilmore participated in three spacewalks to help prepare the space station for future commercial crew vehicles, as well as other various maintenance.

Their mission into space started off with a little concern, as one of the two solar panels of the Soyuz did not deploy. But upon docking, enough vibration caused the panel to shake open.

During landing procedures, there was a longer than normal communications blackout, which caused some to be concerned, but communications was eventually reestablished. 

Landing occurred in the southeast of Dzhezkazgan, but touchdown took extra time to confirm because of a low cloud deck with heavy fog.

The next crew to go to the station will launch abourd Soyuz TMA-16M on March 27, 2015 at 2:42 p.m. CDT. That crew will include Gannady Padalka on his fifth flight to space, as well as two crew members that will stay on ISS for a whole year.

Scott Kelly and Mikhail Korniyenkio, on their fourth and second flights respectively, will stay in space till March 2016.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Three spacewalks in eight days

Credit: NASA
Two astronauts conducted three spacewalks in eight days to prepare the outpost for module relocations and future commercial vehicles.

On Feb. 21, 2015, Barry Wilmore and Terry Virts put on space suits and left the Quest airlock for the first Extravehicular Activity of Expedition 42. Their goal was to reroute power and data cables from the stations forward docking port called Pressurized Mating Adapter Two. PMA-2 was the docking port that hosted the space shuttles during most of the construction period of the space station and hasn't been used since the space shuttle Atlantis undocked in July of 2011.

These cable reroutes are part of a bigger plan to add an International Docking Adapter to both PMA-2, and PMA-3. Later this year, astronauts will relocate the Leonardo Permanent Logistics Module. The PMM will be moved from its current location, below the Unity node, to the forward port of the Tranquility node. Additionally, PMA-3, currently at the port side of Tranquility, will be moved to the Nadir, or top part of Harmony.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Comings and Goings

"George Lemaitre" departing the ISS
The month of February saw two visiting vehicles leave and one arrive.

SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft was unberthed from the Harmony module on 11 February 2015. It was deorbited and recovered in the Pacific after spending a month in space.

Also leaving was Europe's Automated Transfer Vehicle. ATV-5 undocked from the Zvezda module on 15 February 2015. This was the last ATV to fly, but the design will live on in the form of the service module for NASA's Orion spacecraft program.

Just two days later, Russia's Progress M-26M spacecraft launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on 17 February 2015. It was put on a fast six hour rendezvous profile, and docked with the Zvezda module, replacing the ATV-5.

Progress M-26M carried food, fuel and experimental hardware for members of Expedition 42. It is scheduled to remain docked to Zvezda for six months.

In blog news, a new page has been created. You can find the "Visiting Vehicles" page in the navigation bar at the top of the page. As of this post, the page only has Soyuz, Progress, ATV and Dragon. In the coming weeks, more will be added.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The conquest of space is worth the risk of life

The Astronaut Memorial at the Kennedy Space Center - Credit: NASA
Today is NASA's "Day of Remembrance." Three of the most tragic space events all occurred around the same time of the year. The Apollo 1 fire on the launch pad on Jan. 27, 1967, the Challenger disintegration during launch on Jan. 28, 1986 and the Columbia reentry burn up on Feb. 1, 2003 are always on the minds of those who work to put people into space.

The NASA Administrator, Charles Bolden, who also flew on a number of space shuttles in his career, said that those men and women were dear friends, family and colleagues. He said that as we undertake a journey to Mars, their spirit will live on.

"Today, their legacy lives on as the International Space Station fulfills its promise as a symbol of hope for the world and a springboard to missions farther into the solar system," Bolden said.

"If we die, we want people to accept it," said Gus Grissom, the commander of Apollo 1 before his death, "We're in a risky business, and we hope that if anything happens to us it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life."

That to me is the most important thing we can do to honor those who give their lives to space exploration - continue their journey.

For me, I was 14 years old when Columbia and her crew were tragically lost. Looking back at my life, I think that was the point I started taking space exploration seriously. These people believed in it enough to give their lives for the cause of making our species multiplanetary. What can we do to help continue their legacy?

One thing is to support the ISS by spreading the information about research that happens on the station, why it is important and why we should risk six human beings for that research.

People might have disagreements on timelines or interim destinations, but one thing is certain: the ISS is a critical part of that path, for it truly is a first stepping stone on the path to Mars.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Year Ahead

Credit: NASA
Happy 2015! This year will mark 15 years of continuous human presence in space, which has been the record for nearly 5 years. 

Think about that: for the last 15 years, there has always been at least 2 people in space at any moment. Currently, there are six, all on the International Space Station. 

This year will be busy for the ISS. The big news item for ISS will be in March, when Scott Kelly, and Mikhail Korniyenko launch to the station. They are to be the first ISS crew to stay in orbit for one year. Kelly and Korniyenko are part of a study to watch how astronauts bodies react to being in micro-gravity for a year. In particular, Kelly’s twin, Mark, will be on the ground to compare with. Year long missions are yet another stepping stone in learning how to go to Mars, which would last two to three years from start to finish.