NASA - The second astronaut sent to spend almost a year in space for science has left for the International Space Station on Wednesday, April 17, 2019. Her return trip was scheduled in February of 2020. She is tasked to stay in the ISS for roughly 11 months to monitor how her body responds to being in a place with minimal gravity. Her observations will be able to help NASA collect data on how the human body can withstand the challenges that come with being in the outer space for a long time.
So far, the data needed by NASA has been very hard to come by. Usually, a standard space mission only lasts for roughly six months and in history, only a handful of astronauts from NASA has been out in space for more than 200 days in an every space flight. It has rather been a problematic situation for an agency who wishes to set on long-term journeys like sending an astronaut on Mars, which has been estimated to last six to eight months of flight one way. They would like to launch such a space mission within a decade or two.
The long-term stay of Koch in the outer space could truly impact the future journeys the agency plans. It could also shed some light on how men and women respond to space flights and how different it is for each gender, according to NASA officials.
"This journey has by far been the most exciting as it will also help provide insight as to how the human body adapts in the environment in space," said Saralyn Mark. She is a health specialist for women. She is also responsible for the reports submitted to NASA showing that there might be potential differences in how men and women respond to the demands of a space flight.
"Every piece of data that you collect proves to be valuable. For certain, missions with longer durations will give us greater insight into what it takes for the human body to survive longer missions to discover more about the universe we revolve in. Missions to the moon and Mars will be beneficial to the bank of knowledge that people already know," she added.
Although the extended mission came about only because they needed to accommodate the visit of an astronaut from the United Arab Emirates, NASA was too eager to jump into the opportunity to have one of their crew members extended stay in space.
"Astronauts show an amazing kind of resilience. Their body is able to adapt well to long-duration exposure in space," said Jennifer Fogarty, chief of the Human Resource program of NASA. "This mission will prove helpful in achieving successful exploration missions with all its astronauts healthy and absolutely ready for the performance."
To date, there have only been three NASA astronauts to be on board the International Space Station for more than 200 days. While the data for long-term stay in the ISS may be rare, this mission of Koch will truly help the experts understand more about the universe and how the changes there could affect us in the long run.