NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly’s bags are packed, and as we write this he’s strapped into the Russian Soyuz-TMA-16M spacecraft preparing for liftoff.
The launch is scheduled to occur at 3:42 EDT, and you can watch it all unfold right here.
After liftoff, Kelly will board the International Space Station along with Russian Cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko where both men will spend a full year in zero-gravity. Kelly’s twin brother, Mark, will stay back at home. Over the course of the year NASA will meticulously study the Kelly twins’ physical health, mental health and their entire genomes in an effort to learn how extended stays in space affect the body.
The data from this long-term mission will provide scientists valuable information that will help guide a future mission to Mars. It’ll take a manned mission 500 days or more, round-trip, to get to the Red Planet, so NASA scientists need to know how to send humans there safely.
This is the first twins study of its kind, and we may not learn everything we need to know from the Kelly twins, but this is a good place to start.
So to Scott Kelly and the rest of the crew: Good luck and beam back lots of juicy data. For everyone else, enjoy liftoff!