NASA Astronaut Sets New American Space Endurance Record; Russia Promises to Bring Him Home

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei studies cotton genetics for the Plant Habitat-5 space agriculture experiment. (Credit: NASA)

Mark Vande Hei set a new American record for the most consecutive days in space on Tuesday, breaking the 340-day record set by Scott Kelly.

Vande Hei arrived at the International Space Station on April 9, 2021, and is scheduled to return to Earth on March 30, 2022 after 355 days in space.

Russia has assured NASA that Vande Hei will be returned safety to Earth despite on-going tensions and U.S. sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine.

“US astronaut Mark Vande Hei will travel back home in the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft together with Russia’s Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov on March 30. Roscosmos has never let anybody doubt its reliability as a partner,” the Russian space corporation said in a statement.

Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin has threatened to pull Russia out of the space station program and let the facility crash over a populated area if sanctions over the Ukraine invasion are lifted. The station is large enough that pieces will survive reentry and strike the ground. It is not clear whether Rogozin is serious or bluffing.

Vande Hei was originally scheduled to stay aboard the station for about six months. However, he ended up staying almost a year when Roscosmos decided to send up a director and actress to film a movie on the station aboard the Soyuz spacecraft that was to have brought him home. The decision also extended the stay of Dubrov.

Astronaut Hits 300 Days in Space, On Way to Break NASA Record

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei studies cotton genetics for the Plant Habitat-5 space agriculture experiment. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei has lived in space continuously for 300 days since launching and docking to the orbiting lab on April 9, 2021. He is on his way to surpassing Christina Koch’s 328-day mission on March 3 and Scott Kelly’s 340 days on March 15. Vande Hei will return to Earth on March 30 with a NASA astronaut record-breaking 355 consecutive days in Earth orbit.

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NASA Announces Winners of Deep Space Food Challenge

NASA and the Canadian Space Agency have coordinated to open the Deep Space Food Challenge, targeted at developing novel food system technologies for long-duration deep space missions. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Variety, nutrition, and taste are some considerations when developing food for astronauts. For NASA’s Deep Space Food Challenge, students, chefs, small businesses, and others whipped up novel food technology designs to bring new solutions to the table.

NASA has selected 18 U.S. teams to receive a total of $450,000 for ideas that could feed astronauts on future missions. Each team will receive $25,000. Additionally, NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) jointly recognized 10 international submissions.

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Nine Ways We Use AR and VR on the International Space Station

Credit: NASA

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Even the most highly trained and experienced person sometimes needs a hand. For astronauts aboard the International Space Station, that helping hand comes from other crew members, experts on the ground, and increasingly, in the form of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).

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New Augmented Reality Applications Assist Astronaut Repairs to Space Station

NASA astronaut and Expedition 65 Flight Engineer Megan McArthur wears the specialized Sidekick headset and tests using augmented reality aboard the International Space Station. (Credits: NASA)

by Leah Cheshier
International Space Station Program Research Office
NASA Johnson Space Center

HOUSTON — Most often, communications delays between the International Space Station crew and ground are nearly unnoticeable as they are routed from one Tracking and Data Relay Satellite to another as the station orbits about 250 miles above Earth. As NASA prepares to explore the Moon, about 240,000 miles away, and eventually Mars, which averages about 245 million miles away, NASA is developing tools to increase astronaut autonomy to operate spacecraft or systems without assistance from the Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston because communication delays from Earth will last longer.

The T2 Augmented Reality (T2AR) project demonstrates how station crew members can inspect and maintain scientific and exercise equipment critical to maintaining crew health and achieving research goals without assistance from ground teams.

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What Happens to the Human Body in Space

NASA astronaut Christina Koch pauses as she helps replace equipment on the International Space Station. She and her fellow astronauts face a suite of health effects while in space. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — For over 50 years, NASA’s Human Research Program (HRP) has studied what happens to the human body in space. Researchers are using what they learn to design procedures, devices, and strategies to keep astronauts safe and healthy throughout their missions.

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Mitochondrial Changes Key to Health Problems in Space

Astronaut Scott Kelly is working with the Microgravity Sciences Glovebox during a Rodent Research session with Bone Densitometer. (Credit: NASA)

by Frank Tavares
NASA’s Ames Research Center

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. — Living in space isn’t easy. There are notable impacts on the biology of living things in the harsh environment of space. A team of scientists has now identified a possible underlying driver of these impacts: the powerhouse of the cell, called mitochondria, experiences changes in activity during spaceflight.

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Former Astronaut Mark Kelly Elected to U.S. Senate

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly has won election to the U.S. Senate from the state of Arizona, joining a small group of space explorers subsequently elected to serve in Congress.

The Associated Press reports that with 83 percent of the votes in, Kelly has 1,444,645 votes (52.6 percent) while Republican Sen. Martha McSally trails with 1,300,119 votes (47.4 percent). Kelly has declared victory and McSally has conceded the race.

Kelly, a Democrat who flew aboard the space shuttle four times, and McSally competed in a special election to fill the last two years of the late Republican Sen. John McCain’s six year term.

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NASA Astronaut’s Record-Setting Mission Helps Scientists for Future Missions

Christina Koch aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA astronaut Christina Koch is set to return to Earth on Thursday, Feb. 6, after 328 days living and working aboard the International Space Station. Her mission is the longest single spaceflight by any woman, which is helping scientists gather data for future missions to the Moon and Mars.

NASA TV Coverage https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html#public

  • Wed., Feb. 5, 9 p.m. EST: Expedition 61 Crew Farewell and Soyuz Hatch Closure
  • Thurs., Feb. 6, 12:15 a.m., 3 a.m. EST: Expedition 61 Soyuz Undocking, Deorbit Burn and Landing Coverage
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Record Setting Astronaut Christina Koch Marks 300 Days in Space

Video Caption: January 9th, 2020 marks 300 days aboard the International Space Station for NASA Astronaut Christina Koch.

In December, Christina Koch set a record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman, eclipsing the record of 288 days set by former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson in 2016-17. Koch will have been part of three expeditions – 59, 60 and 61 – during her first spaceflight. Her mission is planned to be just shy of the longest spaceflight by a NASA astronaut – 340 days, set by former NASA astronaut Scot Kelly during his one-year mission in 2015-16.

NASA has gathered vast amounts of data on astronaut health and performance over the past 50 years and has focused recently on extended durations up to one year with the dedicated mission of Scott Kelly and extended mission of Peggy Whitson. These opportunities have also demonstrated that there is a significant degree of variability in human response to spaceflight and it’s important to determine the acceptable degree of change for both men and women.

University of Arizona Partners With Space Tango to Test Diagnostic Tool in Space

by Marian Frank
UA College of Medicine

PHOENIX (UA PR) — Researchers at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix are partnering with Space Tango, a private aerospace company that designs, builds and operates facilities on the International Space Station, to develop an easy way to test astronauts’ health in space.

Led by Frederic Zenhausern, director of the UA Center for Applied NanoBioscience and Medicine, the project has received three independent NASA grants. The latest funding will allow researchers to develop a diagnostic tool – a miniature syringe-like device that can detect bioagents and hundreds of biomarkers in blood or saliva – and test it in space.

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NASA’s Landmark Twins Study Reveals Resilience of Human Body in Space

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Results from NASA’s landmark Twins Study, which took place from 2015-2016, were published Thursday in Science. The integrated paper — encompassing work from 10 research teams — reveals some interesting, surprising and reassuring data about how one human body adapted to — and recovered from — the extreme environment of space.

The Twins Study provides the first integrated biomolecular view into how the human body responds to the spaceflight environment, and serves as a genomic stepping stone to better understand how to maintain crew health during human expeditions to the Moon and Mars.

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NASA Twins Study Confirms Preliminary Findings

Identical twins, Scott and Mark Kelly, are the subjects of NASA’s Twins Study. Scott (left) spent a year in space while Mark (right) stayed on Earth as a control subject. Researchers are looking at the effects of space travel on the human body. (Credits: NASA)

Editor’s note: NASA issued the following statement updating this article on March 15, 2018:

Mark and Scott Kelly are still identical twins; Scott’s DNA did not fundamentally change. What researchers did observe are changes in gene expression, which is how your body reacts to your environment. This likely is within the range for humans under stress, such as mountain climbing or SCUBA diving.

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Review: Scott Kelly’s Memoir About a Year in Orbit

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery
by Scott Kelly with Margaret Lazarus Dean
Alfred A. Knoff
2017
369 pages

Scott Kelly was failing out of college when he spotted a book at the campus store that would utterly change his life: The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe’s classic tale of Cold War-era test pilots and the Mercury astronauts.

As he read Wolfe’s prose, Kelly realized that flying jets had the same type of adrenaline rush he felt working as an EMT, which had been the only thing he had excelled at thus far. He decided he would pursue a career as an U.S. Navy aviator.

Decades later, he would call Wolfe in the midst of a year-long stay aboard the International Space Station (ISS) to thank him and ask for advice about how to write a book of his own.

Endurance is the result. The memoir doesn’t live up to Wolfe’s stylistic brilliance, but what the book lacks in style it more than makes up for in inspiration.
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