NASA

NASA's Got a Plan For a 'Galactic Positioning System' To Save Astronauts Lost in Space (space.com) 98

From a report: Outer space glows with a bright fog of X-ray light, coming from everywhere at once. But peer carefully into that fog, and faint, regular blips become visible. These are millisecond pulsars, city-sized neutron stars rotating incredibly quickly, and firing X-rays into the universe with more regularity than even the most precise atomic clocks. And NASA wants to use them to navigate probes and crewed ships through deep space. A telescope mounted on the International Space Station (ISS), the Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER), has been used to develop a brand new technology with near-term, practical applications: a galactic positioning system, NASA scientist Zaven Arzoumanian told physicists Sunday (April 15) at the April meeting of the American Physical Society.

With this technology, "You could thread a needle to get into orbit around the moon of a disant planet instead of doing a flyby," Arzoumian told Live Science. A galactic positioning system could also provide "a fallback, so that if a crewed mission loses contact with the Earth, they'd still have navigation systems on board that are autonomous." Right now, the kind of maneuvers that navigators would need to put a probe in orbit around distant moons are borderline impossible.

Space

SpaceX Completes Its Seventh Successful Mission of 2018 With Launch of CRS-14 (youtube.com) 24

Longtime Slashdot reader lalleglad writes: SpaceX today launched a Falcon 9 with its 14th Resupply Services mission. I saw it went well, and I hope it will also attach to the International Space Station (ISS) in good order. Incidentally, it carries the Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM), which is an European Space Agency (ESA) project to investigate Earth-to-space lighting and thunder. Let's hope that it will enable better weather movement understanding, and for us plain people, better weather forecasts! "The Falcon 9 rocket, whose first stage launched ISS supplies last August, fired nine Merlin main engines again to roar from Launch Complex 40 at 4:30 p.m.," reports Florida Today. "Ten minutes later, the unmanned Dragon capsule, which launched to the ISS two years earlier, floated free of the rocket's upper stage to start a two-day journey back to the orbiting research complex. It was the second time a recycled Falcon 9 and Dragon had launched together, and the 11th time in just over a year that SpaceX had re-launched a used -- or what the company prefers to call 'flight proven' -- rocket." CNBC notes that the CRS-14 launch was the company's seventh successful mission this year. You can watch the recorded livestream of the launch here.
Earth

World Cities Go Dark For 'Earth Hour' Climate Campaign (afp.com) 141

An anonymous reader quotes the AFP: Earth Hour, which started in Australia in 2007, is being observed by millions of supporters in 187 countries, who are turning off their lights at 8.30pm local time in what organisers describe as the world's "largest grassroots movement for climate change"... In Paris, the Eiffel Tower plunged into darkness as President Emmanuel Macron urged people to join in and "show you are willing to join the fight for nature". "The time for denial is long past. We are losing not only our battle against climate change, but also our battle against the collapse of biodiversity," he said on Twitter. Moscow's Red Square also fell dark and the Russian section of the International Space Station dipped its lights, the Ria Novisti news agency said... UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the event "comes at a time of huge pressure on people and planet alike. Resources and ecosystems across the world are under assault. Earth hour is an opportunity to show our resolve to change."
Other landmarks "going dark" include the Empire State Building in New York and the Sydney Opera House, as well as the harbour skylines of Hong Kong and Singapore.
Earth

Scientists Unsure Where Chinese Space Station Will Crash To Earth 78

In 2016, the Chinese space agency lost control of its Tiangong-1, or Heavenly Palace, spacecraft, five years after it blasted into orbit. Scientists have determined that it will come crashing down to Earth in the coming weeks, be they do not know exactly where on Earth it will hit. The Guardian reports: The defunct module is now at an altitude of 150 miles and being tracked by space agencies around the world, with the European Space Agency's center in Darmstadt predicting a fiery descent for it between March 27 and April 8. Hurtling around the Earth at about 18,000mph, the module ranks as one of the larger objects to re-enter the atmosphere without being steered towards the ocean, as is standard for big and broken spacecraft, and cargo vessels that are jettisoned from the International Space Station (ISS), to reduce the risk to life below. The spacecraft's orbit ranges from 43 degrees north to 43 degrees south, which rules out a descent over the UK but includes vast stretches of North and South America, China, the Middle East, Africa, Australia, parts of Europe -- and great swaths of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Western analysts cannot be sure how much of the spacecraft will survive re-entry, because China has not released details of the design and materials used to make Tiangong-1. But the spacecraft may have well-protected titanium fuel tanks containing toxic hydrazine that could pose a danger if they land in populated areas.
IBM

IBM's Watson Is Going To Space (thenextweb.com) 59

Yesterday, IBM announced it would be providing the AI brain for a robot being built by Airbus to accompany astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS). "The robot, which looks like a flying volleyball with a low-resolution face, is being deployed with Germany astronaut Alexander Gerst in June for a six month mission," reports The Next Web. "It's called CIMON, an acronym for Crew Interactive Mobile Companion, and it's headed to space to do science stuff." From the report: It'll help crew members conduct medical experiments, study crystals, and play with a Rubix cube. Best of all, just like "Wilson," the other volleyball with a face and Tom Hanks' costar in the movie Castaway, CIMON can be the astronauts' friend. According to an IBM blog post: "CIMON's digital face, voice and use of artificial intelligence make it a 'colleague' to the crew members. This collegial 'working relationship' facilitates how astronauts work through their prescribed checklists of experiments, now entering into a genuine dialogue with their interactive assistant."
ISS

Bigelow Launching New Company To Sell Private Space Stations (popularmechanics.com) 57

hyperclocker shares a report from Popular Mechanics: The future of spacecraft in lower Earth orbit (LEO) looks to be an increasingly commercial affair. Bigelow Aerospace, a Las Vegas-based company that builds livable space habitats, has now created a spinoff company known as Bigelow Space Operations (BSO). BSO will market and operate any space habitats that Bigelow sells. The creation of BSO signals that Bigelow is preparing for a future of commercial space living. Recently leaked NASA documents show that the Trump Administration wants to convert the International Space Station into a commercial venture, and BSO is betting that businesses including private scientific ventures and hotels will be interested in creating a profit above the Earth. A prototype Bigelow habitat, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), has been connected to the ISS since 2016. It's proven such a successful addition that last year NASA extended its contract for an additional three years. But Bigelow is thinking past the BEAM. In its press release announcing BSO, it highlights its planned launches of the B330-1 and B330-2, spacecraft with 6-person capacity, in 2021.
ISS

The Trump Administration is Moving To Privatize the International Space Station: Report (techcrunch.com) 236

The Trump administration is planning to privatize the international space station instead of simply decommissioning the orbiting international experiment in 2024, The Washington Post reports. From a report: According to a document obtained by the Post, the current administration is mulling handing the International Space Station off to private industry instead of de-orbiting it as NASA "will expand international and commercial partnerships over the next seven years in order to ensure continued human access to and presence in low Earth orbit." The Post also reported that the administration was looking to request $150 million in fiscal year 2019 "to enable the development and maturation of commercial entities and capabilities which will ensure that commercial successors to the ISS -- potentially including elements of the ISS -- are operational when they are needed." The U.S. government has already spent roughly $100 billion to build and operate the space station as part of an international coalition that also includes the European Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and the Russian Space Agency.
ISS

Trump Administration Wants To End NASA Funding For ISS By 2025 (theverge.com) 344

According to budget documents seen by The Verge, the Trump administration is preparing to end support for the International Space Station program by 2025. As a result, American astronauts could be grounded on Earth for years with no destination in space until NASA develops new vehicles for its deep space travel plans. From the report: The draft may change before an official budget request is released on February 12th. However, two people familiar with the matter have confirmed to The Verge that the directive will be in the final proposal. We reached out to NASA for comment, but did not receive a response by the time of publication. Any budget proposal from the Trump administration will also be subject to scrutiny and approval by Congress. But even announcing the intention to cancel ISS funding could send a signal to NASA's international partners that the U.S. is no longer interested in continuing the program. Many of NASA's partners still have yet to decide if they'd like to continue working on the station beyond 2024. The International Space Station has been an ongoing program for more than two decades. It costs NASA between $3 to $4 billion each year, and represents a more than $87 billion investment from the U.S. government. It's become a major hub for conducting both government and commercial experiments in microgravity, as well as testing out how the human body responds to weightlessness.
Government

What a Government Shutdown Will Mean For NASA and SpaceX (theverge.com) 198

Ars Technica reports of how the government shutdown affects federal agencies like NASA, as well as commercial companies like SpaceX: So far, NASA has been keeping quiet about this particular shutdown and has been directing all questions to the White House Office of Management and Budget, which did not respond to a request for comment. But NASA's acting administrator, Robert Lightfoot, told employees in an email obtained by The Verge to be on alert for directions over the next couple of days. "If there is a lapse in funding for the federal government Friday night, report to work the same way you normally would until further notice, and you will receive guidance on how best to closeout your activities on Monday," he wrote in the email. The most recent guidance from NASA, released in 2017, indicates that all nonessential employees should stay home during a shutdown, while a small contingent of staff continue to work on "excepted" projects. The heads of each NASA center decide which employees need to stay, but they're typically the people who operate important or hazardous programs, including employees working on upcoming launches or those who operate satellites and the International Space Station.

NASA's next big mission is the launch of its exoplanet-hunting satellite, TESS, which is going up on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Florida in March. So it shouldn't be affected by a shutdown (unless it takes a while to find a resolution). However, it's possible that preparations on another big spacecraft, the James Webb Space Telescope, may come to a halt, according to Nature. The space telescope is currently at NASA's Johnson Space Center for testing, but NASA's guidelines say that only spacecraft preparations that are "necessary to prevent harm to life or property" should continue during a shutdown. More immediately, an Atlas V rocket from the United Launch Alliance is launching a missile-detecting satellite tonight out of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, while SpaceX is slated to launch a communications satellite on January 30th. The timing of both launches may mean they avoid the shutdown. But if they did occur during the shutdown, it's unclear if they would suffer delays.

NASA

SpaceX and Boeing Slated For Manned Space Missions By Year's End (fortune.com) 79

schwit1 shares a report from Fortune, covering NASA's announcement last week that it expects SpaceX to conduct a crewed test flight by the end of the year: SpaceX's crewed test flight is slated for December, after an uncrewed flight in August. Boeing will also be demonstrating its CST-100 Starliner capsule, with a crewed flight in November following an uncrewed flight in August. NASA's goal is to launch crews to the ISS from U.S. soil, a task that has fallen to Russia's space program since the retirement of the U.S. Space Shuttle program in 2011. NASA began looking for private launch companies to take over starting in 2010, and contracted both SpaceX and Boeing in 2014 to pursue crewed launches. The push to restore America's crewed spaceflight capacity has been delayed in part, according to a detailed survey by Ars Technica, by Congress redirecting funds in subsequent years. The test flights could determine whether Boeing or SpaceX conducts the first U.S. commercial space launch to the ISS. Whichever company gets that honor may also claim a symbolic U.S. flag stuck to a hatch on the space station. Sources speaking to Ars describe the race between the two companies as too close to call, and say that a push to early 2019 is entirely possible. But in an apparent vote of confidence, NASA has already begun naming astronauts to helm the flights.
Space

Wired Publishes Fake Christmas Letter By Elon Musk (wired.com) 32

Wired's transportation editor just published what he's calling "Elon Musk's Christmas letter" touting the accomplishments of Musk's "family" of companies, "thanks to an anonymous tipster." (Though the story's photo caption suspiciously calls it "an absolutely real and totally not made up holiday message," and at the very bottom of the piece it's tagged as "satire" -- a word which also appears at the end of its URL.)

SpaceX (age 15) Man these companies grow up fast. SpaceX didn't just successfully launch its 12th resupply mission to the International Space Station this summer, it upped its ambitions with a pretty detailed plan for colonizing Mars. (OK, as long as it comes home for Thanksgiving and Christmas!) The scheme involves an Interplanetary Transport System the company calls the BFR, or Big Fucking Rocket (you wonder where they get their sense of humor!), which it will definitely have built in just five years.

Tesla (age 14) After promising to start deliveries of its affordable Model 3 sedan this summer, my little automaker went all the way to production hell to make it happen. And boy is the car a wonder, with its huge glass roof, innovative touchscreen interface (so long, dashboard), and all the acceleration you know to expect from Tesla. I'm sure the 400,000 people who have pre-ordered one will agree whenever they get theirs...!

OpenAI and Neuralink (ages 2, 1) I've always thought we should merge our brains with computers, and I'm so glad two of my youngest are dedicated to making it happen... Maybe it'll even find the time to help big brother Tesla with that AI chip it's making for Autopilot.

The Boring Company (age 1) Celebrated its first birthday this month...! Boring knows my views on public transit, and has reassured me these tunnels will be for fancy hyperloops and private cars on electric sleds, only...

So, my friends and fans, comrades and competitors, investors short and long, my best tidings. May your lives be as rich, electrifying, and ambitious as ours.

For its 13th resupply mission of the ISS on December 15th, (the real) SpaceX used a recycled rocket, and Friday (the real) Elon Musk jokingly tweeted a video of the weird trail left behind by SpaceX's latest rocket launch with the caption, "Nuclear alien UFO from North Korea." By late Saturday he'd posted an update. "Having a sinking feeling that most people actually do think it was aliens..."

"So strange that people often believe things inversely proportionate to the evidence."
NASA

NASA Uses Its First Recycled SpaceX Rocket For a Re-Supply Mission (nypost.com) 93

An anonymous reader quotes the New York Post: SpaceX racked up another first on Friday, launching a recycled rocket with a recycled capsule on a grocery run for NASA. The unmanned Falcon rocket blasted off with a just-in-time-for-Christmas delivery for the International Space Station, taking flight again after a six-month turnaround. On board was a Dragon supply ship, also a second-time flier. It was NASA's first use of a reused Falcon rocket and only the second of a previously flown Dragon.

Within 10 minutes of liftoff, the first-stage booster was back at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, standing upright on the giant X at SpaceX's landing zone. That's where it landed back in June following its first launch. Double sonic booms thundered across the area. At SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, cheers erupted outside the company's glassed-in Mission Control, where chief executive Elon Musk joined his employees.

The Dragon reaches the space station Sunday. The capsule last visited the 250-mile-high outpost in 2015. This time, the capsule is hauling nearly 5,000 pounds of goods, including 40 mice for a muscle-wasting study, a first-of-its-kind impact sensor for measuring space debris as minuscule as a grain of sand and barley seeds for a germination experiment by Budweiser, already angling to serve the first beer on Mars.

Also onboard were several hundred Star Wars mission patches created by a partnership between Lucasfilm and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (the non-profit organization managing the ISS National Lab). Space.com reports that Elon Musk named the Falcon X after the original Millennium Falcon in Star Wars.
ISS

The International Space Station is Super Germy (washingtonpost.com) 88

Thousands of species have colonized the International Space Station -- and only one of them is Homo sapiens. From a report: According to a new study in the journal PeerJ, the interior surfaces of the 17-year-old, 250-mile-high, airtight space station harbor at least 1,000 and perhaps more than 4,000 microbe species (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source ) -- a finding that is actually "reassuring," according to co-author David Coil. "Diversity is generally associated with a healthy ecosystem," said the University of California at Davis microbiologist. A varied population of microscopic inhabitants is probably a signature of a healthy spacecraft, he added. And as humanity considers even longer ventures in space -- such as an 18-month voyage to Mars -- scientists must understand who these microbes are. The samples for Coil's paper were collected in 2014 as part of the citizen science program Project MERCCURI. The initiative, conceived by a group of National Football League and National Basketball Association cheerleaders who are also scientists and engineers, involved swabbing down dozens of professional sports stadiums, identifying the microbes in the samples, and sending those species to the ISS to see whether they would thrive. (Bacillus aryabhatti, collected from a practice football field used by the Oakland Raiders, grew fastest.)
Space

SpaceX's First Falcon Heavy Launch Will Now Take Place In 2018 (engadget.com) 131

The launch of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket has been delayed to 2018. In an email to Aviation Week, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said, "We wanted to fly Heavy this year. We should be able to static fire this year and fly a couple of weeks right after that." Engadget reports: The static fire test will be the first time that all of Heavy's 27 Merlin engines will be fired at once. And if all goes well there, Falcon Heavy should be ready for launch within the first few weeks of 2018. There have been multiple launch delays with Heavy, which Elon Musk has attributed to the development of such a large and powerful rocket being "way, way more difficult" than SpaceX expected. "Falcon Heavy requires the simultaneous ignition of 27 orbit-class engines," Musk said at the ISS R&D conference in July. "There's a lot that can go wrong there." And because of that, Musk has been very clear about where everyone's expectations should be going into Falcon Heavy's first launch. "There's a real good chance that it does not make it to orbit. I hope it gets far enough away from the launch pad that it does not cause pad damage -- I would consider that a win," he said.
ISS

Bacteria Found On ISS May Be Alien In Origin, Says Cosmonaut (independent.co.uk) 240

Kekke writes: Lots of buzz around this. Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov took routine samples from the outside of the International Space Station during a spacewalk. These samples were analyzed and found to contain bacteria that must have come from somewhere other than Earth or the ISS itself. "Bacteria that had not been there during the launch of the ISS module were found on the swabs," Mr. Shkaplerov told TASS Russian News Agency. "So they have flown from somewhere in space and settled on the outside hull." He made it clear that "it seems, there is no danger," and that scientists are doing more work to find out what they are. The Independent writes, "Finding bacteria that came from somewhere other than Earth would be one of the biggest breakthroughs in the history of science -- but much more must be done before such a claim is made."
The Almighty Buck

Study Finds SpaceX Investment Saved NASA Hundreds of Millions (popularmechanics.com) 156

schwit1 shares a report from Popular Mechanics: When a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft connected with the International Space Station on May 25, 2012, it made history as the first privately-built spacecraft to reach the ISS. The Dragon was the result of a decision 6 years prior -- in 2006, NASA made an "unprecedented" investment in SpaceX technology. A new financial analysis shows that the investment has paid off, and the government found one of the true bargains of the 21st century when it invested in SpaceX. A new research paper by Edgar Zapata, who works at Kennedy Space Center, looks closely at the finances of SpaceX and NASA. "There were indications that commercial space transportation would be a viable option from as far back as the 1980s," Zapata writes. "When the first components of the ISS were sent into orbit 1998, NASA was focused on "ambitious, large single stage-to-orbit launchers with large price tags to match." For future commercial crew missions sending astronauts into space, Zapata estimates that it will cost $405 million for a SpaceX Dragon crew deployment of 4 and $654 million for a Boeing Starliner, which is scheduled for its first flight in 2019. That sounds like a lot, and it is, but Zapata estimates that its only 37 to 39 percent of what it would have cost the government.
Space

Exit Interview: Scott Kelly (atlasobscura.com) 62

An excerpt from a new interview of Scott Kelly, now a retired astronaut, who spent 11 months and three days at the International Space Station in one stretch: Q: What does space smell like?
It smells different to different people. Some people say it smells sweet. To me it smells like burnt metal, like if you took a blowtorch to some steel or something.

Q: When you're up there on the ISS, arguably you're the most expensive human being on the planet except the president. The amount of resources being spent to keep you alive are enormous. Did that weigh on you at all?
Never even thought about that. No. Never considered it. I appreciated the effort that people went through to make sure you're safe, and are taken care of and supported while you're there, but I never considered the cost of it.

Question: Did it feel like, 'Man, I gotta work all the time'?
I think some people feel that way. I kind of felt that way on my [first, six-month ISS mission]. But having flown for six months, and then a few years later flying for a year, I realized I couldn't do that. So I definitely had to pace myself throughout the course of the year.

Q: Did you lose anything in the station?
All kinds of stuff! One of the last things I remember losing was this fancy, 3-D printed cover for some experiment. It was for the camera and I turn around and the thing's gone, and they didn't have a spare. I've got to see if they've found that thing yet. Oh, yeah. We lost a bag of screws and washers one time.

Question: When you're on the U.S. side of the ISS and the Russians are on their side, how much interaction is there, day-to-day?
They work predominantly in the Russian segment and have their meals there, so during waking hours, they're generally on their side, we're generally on our side. You interact, you go down there, you chat with them, you come back, you might perform some kind of experiments, they might do a little thing in our space station, but it's what we refer to as "segmented ops."

Question: Does it feel like you're all in it together?
Yes! Absolutely. We actually do some things to help each other that we don't even share with the ground because then it creates like bureaucratic ... issues for them to deal with. I've been asked to help fix some of their hardware, their treadmill one time. We help each other getting trash off the space station without telling the folks in Houston.

ISS

The International Space Station Is Getting Its First Printer Upgrade in 17 Years (mashable.com) 174

Lance Ulanoff, writing for Mashable: Somewhere, 254 miles above us, an astronaut is probably printing something. Ever since the International Space Station (ISS) welcomed its first residents in November of 2000, there have been printers on board. Astronauts use them to print out critical mission information, emergency evacuation procedures and, sometimes, photos from home. According to NASA, they print roughly 1,000 pages a month on two printers; one is installed on the U.S. side of the ISS, the other in the Russian segment. ISS residents do all this on 20-year-old technology. "When the printer was new, it was like 2000-era tech and we had 2000-era laptop computers. Everything worked pretty good," recalled NASA Astronaut Don Pettit, who brought the first printer up to the ISS. But "the printer's been problematic for the last five or six years," said Pettit who's spent a total of one year on the station. It's not that the Space Station has been orbiting with the same printer since Justin Timberlake was still N'Sync. NASA had dozens of this printer and, as one failed, they'd send up another identical model. But now it's time for something truly new. In 2018, NASA will send two brand new, specialized printers up to the station. However, figuring out the right kind of printer to send was a lot more complicated than you'd probably expect. NASA has turned to HP for its IT supply and needs. The agency requires the following things in its printer: print and handle paper management in zero gravity, handle ink waste during printing, be flame retardant, and be power efficient. HP, Mashable reports, has recommended the HP Envy 5600, its all-in-one (printer, scanner, copier, fax) device that retails for $129.99. The model has been modified, according to the report.
Space

The Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility: Where Spacecraft Go To Die (bbc.com) 100

dryriver writes: Whether you launch a satellite into space or an entire space station like the Russian Mir, the Chinese Tiangong-1 or the International Space Station, what goes up must eventually come down -- re-enter earth's atmosphere. The greater the mass of what is in space -- Mir weighed 120 tons, the ISS weighs 450 tons and will be decommissioned in a decade -- the greater the likelihood that larger parts will not burn up completely during re-entry and crash to earth at high velocity. So there is a need for a place on earth where things falling back from space are least likely to cause damage or human casualties. The Oceanic Pole Of Inaccessibility is one of two such places.

The place furthest away from land -- it lies in the South Pacific some 2,700km (1,680 miles) south of the Pitcairn Islands -- somewhere in the no-man's land, or rather no-man's-sea, between Australia, New Zealand and South America, has become a favorite crash site for returning space equipment. "Scattered over an area of approximately 1,500 sq km (580 sq miles) on the ocean floor of this region is a graveyard of satellites. At last count there were more than 260 of them, mostly Russian," reports the BBC. "The wreckage of the Space Station Mir also lies there... Many times a year the supply module that goes to the International Space Station burns up in this region incinerating the station's waste." The International Space Station will also be carefully brought down in this region when its mission ends. No one is in any danger because of this controlled re-entry into our atmosphere. The region is not fished because oceanic currents avoid the area and do not bring nutrients to it, making marine life scarce.

ISS

Astronaut Scott Kelly Describes One Year In Space -- And Its After Effects (brisbanetimes.com.au) 200

53-year-old astronaut Scott Kelly shared a dramatic excerpt from his new book Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery in the Brisbane Times, describing his first 48 hours back on earth and what he'd learned on the mission: I push back from the table and struggle to stand up, feeling like a very old man getting out of a recliner... I make it to my bedroom without incident and close the door behind me. Every part of my body hurts. All my joints and all of my muscles are protesting the crushing pressure of gravity. I'm also nauseated, though I haven't thrown up... When I'm finally vertical, the pain in my legs is awful, and on top of that pain I feel a sensation that's even more alarming: it feels as though all the blood in my body is rushing to my legs, like the sensation of the blood rushing to your head when you do a handstand, but in reverse. I can feel the tissue in my legs swelling... Normally if I woke up feeling like this, I would go to the emergency room. But no one at the hospital will have seen symptoms of having been in space for a year...

Our space agencies won't be able to push out farther into space, to a destination like Mars, until we can learn more about how to strengthen the weakest links in the chain that make space flight possible: the human body and mind... [V]ery little is known about what occurs after month six. The symptoms may get precipitously worse in the ninth month, for instance, or they may level off. We don't know, and there is only one way to find out... On my previous flight to the space station, a mission of 159 days, I lost bone mass, my muscles atrophied, and my blood redistributed itself in my body, which strained and shrank the walls of my heart. More troubling, I experienced problems with my vision, as many other astronauts had. I had been exposed to more than 30 times the radiation of a person on Earth, equivalent to about 10 chest X-rays every day. This exposure would increase my risk of a fatal cancer for the rest of my life.

Kelly says the Space Station crew performed more than 400 experiments, though about 25% of his time went to tracking his own health. "If we could learn how to counteract the devastating impact of bone loss in microgravity, the solutions could well be applied to osteoporosis and other bone diseases. If we could learn how to keep our hearts healthy in space, that knowledge could be useful on Earth." Kelly says he felt better a few months after returning to earth, adding "It's gratifying to see how curious people are about my mission, how much children instinctively feel the excitement and wonder of space flight, and how many people think, as I do, that Mars is the next step... I know now that if we decide to do it, we can."

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