U.S. and Russia Preparing for Mars Seek Harmony Missing on Earth

The prime crew members for International Space Station Expedition 43 take a break in training for a crew portrait. From the left are Flight Engineers Scott Kelly of NASA, Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko of Russia's Federal Space Agency. Kelly and Kornienko will be spending an entire year in space on board the space station.

Photographer: Roscosmos/GCTC

The U.S. and Russia are seeking to achieve a level of agreement in outer space that political leaders of the two countries have found increasingly elusive on the ground.

U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko lift off March 27 on a record-breaking yearlong mission aboard the International Space Station. They’ll be running experiments to prepare for a future joint mission to Mars, Julie Robinson of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said at the United Nations in Vienna Thursday.

“Originally, Russian and U.S. space-development programs developed independently and we each saw different problems,” Robinson, who is NASA’s chief scientist for the space station, told Bloomberg News. “Now we’re bringing that science together. The political sphere and the practical sphere are very separate.”

U.S.-Russian collaboration in Earth’s orbit is one of the few areas unharmed by tit-for-tat accusations that have left relations between the two powers at post-Cold War lows. Some U.S. leaders are considering military solutions to counter Russian influence in eastern Ukraine. Russia sees threats from expanding military bases in its neighborhood, along with U.S. missile-defense plans and cyber attacks.

The Russian and American Scientists aboard the space station will conduct experiments aimed at countering bone loss experienced during extended stays in zero-gravity environments, Robinson said. Other experiments will examine vision loss that affects some astronauts as well as the dangers of cosmic radiation.

Mars Mission

Before embarking on an open-space journey to Mars, which NASA doesn’t expect before 2035, scientists need to gain better understanding of how humans adapt to the physical and psychological challenges of an extended period in space.

“I’ve work with my Russian colleagues on a daily basis and as we’ve worked together over the years we’ve only gotten closer and more effective in working together,” Robinson said. “We’ll eventually have a U.S.-Russian consensus about the right way to treat the crews as they go to Mars.”

Without being able to understand and alleviate the stresses and solitude that the astronauts face “you have the perfect ingredients for murder,” Robinson told an audience late yesterday at Vienna’s Natural History Museum.

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