The first ever 'One-Year Mission' to the International Space Station (ISS) started with a bang March 27, with the spectacular nighttime launch of the Russian/American crew from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, and culminated with a flawless docking.
The Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft is seen as it launches to the International Space Station with Expedition 43's NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) onboard Friday, March 27 (Saturday, March 28 Kazakh time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka launched aboard a Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft to the International Space Station precisely on time today on the Expedition 43 mission.
The crew rocketed to orbit from the same pad as Russia's Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space.
Kelly and Kornienko will spend about a year living and working aboard the space station. Padalka will remain on board for six months.
Streak shot of Expedition 43 Launch to the ISS on March 27 Eastern time, (March 28, 2015, Kazakh time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan with Scott Kelly, Mikhail Kornienko, and Gennady Padalka to start one-year ISS mission. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
The goal is to use the massive orbiting outpost to provide critical knowledge to NASA and researchers hoping to better understand how the human body reacts and adapts to long-duration spaceflight and the harsh environment of space.
The pathfinding mission is about double the normal time of most expeditions to the Earth orbiting space station, which normally last four to six months.
The one-year mission is among the first concrete steps to start fulfilling NASA's "Journey to Mars" objective of sending "Humans to Mars" in the 2030s.
"Scott Kelly's mission is critical to advancing the administration's plan to send humans on a journey to Mars," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, in a statement.
"We'll gain new, detailed insights on the ways long-duration spaceflight affects the human body."
Year in Space Begins With Soyuz Launch. Media photograph the Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft as it launches to the ISS with Expedition 43 NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) onboard at 3:42 p.m. EDT Friday, March 27, 2015 (March 28 Kazakh time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
This evening the three man international crew successfully rendezvous and docked at the ISS at the Poisk module at 9:33 p.m. EDT, just four orbits and six hours after liftoff.
"Contact and capture confirmed, 1 year crew has arrived," said the NASA launch commentator at 9:33 p.m. EDT.
"Soyuz is firmly attached to the ISS."
Soyuz spacecraft on final approach to dock with the ISS for #YearInSpace mission. Credit: NASA
Docking took place about 253 kilometers off the western coast of Colombia, South America approximately 5 hours and 51 minutes after today's flawless launch from Baikonur.
The crews are scheduled to open the hatches between the Soyuz and ISS at about 11:15 p.m. EDT/315 GMT this evening after conducting pressure, leak and safety checks.
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly gives a thumbs-up from inside the Soyuz TMA-16M taking him and Expedition 43 crewmates Mikhail Kornienko, and Gennady Padalka of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) to the International Space Station after a successful launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Credit: NASA
The arrival of Kelly, Kornienko and Padalka returns the massive orbiting outpost to its full six person crew complement.
The trio joins the current three person station crew comprising Expedition 43 commander Terry Virts of NASA, as well as flight engineers Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA (European Space Agency) and Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos, who have been aboard the complex since November 2014.
"Welcome aboard #Soyuz TMA-16M with Genna, Scott, and Misha- we just had a succesful docking," tweeted Virts this evening post docking.
The 1 Year mission will provide baseline knowledge to NASA and its station partners – Roscosmos, ESA, CSA, JAXA – on how to prepare to send humans on lengthy deep space missions to Mars and other destinations in our Solar System.
Astronaut Scott Kelly will become the first American to live and work aboard the orbiting laboratory for a year-long mission and set a new American duration record.
Scott Kelly and Russian Cosmonauts Kornienko and Padalka are all veteran space fliers.
They have been in training for over two years since being selected in Nov. 2012.
No American has ever spent anywhere near a year in space. 4 Russian cosmonauts conducted long duration stays of about a year or more in space aboard the Mir Space Station in the 1980s and 1990s.
Kelly and Kornienko will stay aboard the ISS until March 3, 2016, when they return to Earth on the Soyuz TMA-18M after 342 days in space. Kelly's combined total of 522 days in space, will enable him to surpass current U.S. record holder Mike Fincke's mark of 382 days.
Padalka will return in September after a six month stint, making him the world's most experienced spaceflyer with a combined five mission total of 878 days in space.
NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian Cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko comprise the first ever ISS 1 Year Crew
They will conduct hundreds of science experiments focusing on at least 7 broad areas of investigation including medical, psychological and biomedical challenges faced by astronauts during long-duration space flight.
Kelly is a veteran NASA Space Shuttle commander who has previously flown to space aboard both the Shuttle and Soyuz. He also served as a space station commander during a previous six-month stay onboard.
Good luck and Godspeed to Kelly, Kornienko and Padalka – starting on the road to Mars!
Expedition 43 crew members Mikhail Kornienko of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), top, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, center, and Gennady Padalka of Roscosmos wave farewell as they board the Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft ahead of their launch to the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls