US twin astronaut, Russian to spend year in space

Brother-in-law of Gabrielle Giffords to set space record

Published On: Nov 26 2012 02:05:11 PM EST   Updated On: Nov 26 2012 04:19:07 PM EST
International Space Station file
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -

The  former space shuttle commander whose twin brother is married to former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords will attempt to set an American space record.

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will spend an entire year aboard the International Space Station beginning in 2015.

The extended mission was approved almost two months ago to provide a medical foundation for future missions around the moon, as well as  Mars.

Both men already have lived aboard the space station for six months. NASA wanted experienced space station astronauts to streamline the amount of training necessary for a one-year stint. They will begin training next year.

"Their skills and previous experience aboard the space station align with the mission's requirements," Bill Gerstenmaier, head of human exploration for NASA, said in a statement. "The one-year increment will expand the bounds of how we live and work in space and will increase our knowledge regarding the effects of microgravity on humans as we prepare for future missions beyond low-Earth orbit."

Kelly's identical twin brother, Mark Kelly, retired from the astronaut corps last year and moved to Tucson, Ariz., his wife's hometown. The former congresswoman was critically wounded in an assassination attempt in January 2011, while Scott Kelly was living aboard the space station.

Astronauts normally spend about four to six months aboard the space station. The longest an American lived there was seven months.

Russia, though, will continue to hold the world space endurance record.

Four cosmonauts spent at least a year aboard the old Mir space station. A Russian physician, Valery Polyakov, logged nearly 15 continuous months there in the mid-1990s.

Communications and food rations for Kelly and Kornienko may be limited during their year-long mission to better simulate interplanetary travel.

Kelly is a 48-year-old, divorced Navy captain with two daughters. Kornienko, 52, a rocket engineer, is married with a daughter.

"We have chosen the most responsible, skilled and enthusiastic crew members to expand space exploration, and we have full confidence in them," Russian Space Agency chief Vladimir Popovkin said in the announcement.