This picture of the International Space Station and the moon was photographed from the space shuttle Atlantis just after the two spacecraft undocked on July 19, 2011, during NASA’s final shuttle mission STS-135. CREDIT: NASA

Yearlong Space Missions Will Present Physical and Mental Challenges

by Clara Moskowitz, SPACEAssistant Managing Editor
Date: 19 December 2012 Time: 07:00 AM ET

NASA is getting ready to send astronauts on yearlong missions to the International Space Station, doubling the duration of a typical orbital stay. These long-term missions will be sending spaceflyers into largely uncharted territory, and some of the biggest unknowns are how the human mind and body will react to that much time in space.

NASA has long known that weightlessness wreaks havoc on the body, with astronauts losing muscle mass and bone density, and even suffering eyesight degeneration, after spending time in space.

“While it’s definitely new territory for NASA, I wouldn’t expect the challenges of a yearlong mission to be substantially different from those of a six-month mission,” said former space station commander Michael Lopez-Alegria, who is now president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. “A yearlong mission will be beneficial to Human Research Program scientists as they continue to expand the envelope of human spaceflight so that one day we can undertake the longer missions that we think will be necessary to voyage beyond cis-lunar space,” or the region between Earth and the moon.

Read more: Yearlong Space Missions Will Present Physical and Mental Challenges | ISS Yearlong Crew | Space.

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