By Chris Cauhapé |Staff Writer|
American astronaut Scott Kelly landed safely aboard a Soyuz spacecraft, at the Russian operated Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, on March 1st.
Kelly’s 340 day mission aboard the International Space Station was the longest lasting space flight ever for an American astronaut.
He spent the long space voyage taking tests to determine the physical and mental effects of extended weightlessness, cramped quarters and exposure to radiation 24 times stronger than what is felt on Earth.
Scott Kelly’s mental and physical condition was compared to his identical twin brother Mark Kelly, who is a former astronaut and the husband of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Gifford.
Prolonged weightlessness made Kelly two inches taller and weaker in muscle and bone once he returned and felt the gravity of Earth. The Earth’s pull returned Kelly to normal stature after only a few hours.
Kelly said that steady work kept him mentally in order, but looking down at the pollution on Earth has turned him into an environmentalist.
The mission was part of preparations for the expected manned trip to Mars and back. It is speculated that the Mars mission will take place at some time during the decade of the 2030’s.
If Earthlings are to go to Mars two decades from now, remedies and adjustments will have to be discovered in order to make the two to three year journey safe for the human mind and body.
Such innovation will be reminiscent of the 1960’s, when the “Space Race Tech” introduced a tsunami of new products and technologies to the world.
Communication satellites, satellite dishes, satellite television and global positioning all came about due to the space contraptions that remain in geosynchronous orbit.
Geosynchronous means that the satellite remains at the same spot over the planet because it orbits at the speed of the Earth’s rotation.
This technology replaced land-based microwave relay stations.
Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors replaced the canary in the mine.
Space Race innovation has made possible the laser eye surgery that has replaced risky scalpel incisions.
“Space Race Tech” produced magnetic resonance indicators (MRI), and computerized tomography (CT) scans which have made potentially harmful exploratory surgery unnecessary.
The digital imagery which makes virtual reality a reality was developed for spacecraft flight simulators and has been adapted to train all aircraft pilots.
The same technology makes the operation of unmanned warplanes possible.
Is attempting to explore Mars a good idea?
Student Rafael Velasquez doesn’t necessarily think so.
“We should stop colonialism of the universe and settle down, and protect the environment we have, instead of looking for another one to mess up,” said Valesquez.
“No need to travel when we have SKYPE, is there?” said student Tomasito Napalan
“As important as space exploration is, I think exploring the depths of the oceans has more urgency for human beings as a species,” concluded Napalan.
The space mission was the fourth one for Kelly. Prior to his recent mission, his longest mission was 159 days.
Kelly says he has made his final NASA mission although he would consider another space voyage perhaps with a private company.