A new documentary takes viewers inside the International Space Station (ISS) to experience a year in space alongside astronaut Scott Kelly. The hour-long PBS-Time Magazine presentation, A Year in Space, airs on PBS beginning at 8 p.m. EST on Wednesday, March 2, following Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko’s return to Earth at the end of a landmark 340-day mission. The film follows Kelly’s record-breaking 12-month mission on ISS, from launch to landing, as NASA charts the effects of long-duration spaceflight and incorporates footage from the return to Earth.
The PBS-Time collaboration got its start when PBS producer Bill Margol heard about Time’s plan for the one-year mission, which is testing human limits for space travel and laying the groundwork for a manned mission to Mars.
“When Scott Kelly originally signed up to do this mission, our editors and writers at the time were very interested [in covering it],” Ian Orefice, senior executive producer of Time Video, told Space.com.
Initially, the plan was to do a one-off video story on Kelly, but when producers visited Kelly and saw the interaction with his own family, “we realized there was a much bigger opportunity,” Orefice said. Time committed to do a series of digital shorts, and PBS then signed on to bring a two-part documentary to a television audience, with the first installment premiering on March 2 and featuring Kelly’s time on the space station, including newly released footage.
Despite all of the technological comforts of the space station, a year in space — the longest space mission in American history — has been described as the epitome of extreme, with extraordinarily high physical stakes. Following Scott Kelly in space and his identical twin Mark Kelly at home on Earth, the specials will tell the story of what it takes, mentally and physically, to spend a year in space and then, using what the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has learned from the Kelly brothers, what it means for humanity as we journey to Mars and beyond.
In the Kelly brothers, NASA has “a near-perfect, two-person sample group for biomedical research.” NASA is closely tracking Scott’s physical and emotional changes, and his biological functions, down to the molecular level while he is in orbit. The agency hopes to identify precisely what changes happened to Scott as a result of 12 months in space by comparing him to his identical twin on Earth. What NASA learns about how Scott withstands the physical and psychological difficulties will provide scientists with key data to develop methods of overcoming the challenges of human interplanetary travel.
“Viewers will witness the rigors of Scott’s training to live in space for an entire year and will get to know his family and their dreams, stresses, fears and loves,” the PBS site explains. “Interwoven into the series’ compelling personal story, A Year in Space will also delve into the broader historical context of the mission, including the history of space exploration, the political background of the Russian-US relationship — Scott’s compatriot at the start of the mission is Russian astronaut Mikhail Korniyenk — and the science/engineering conundrums posed by interplanetary space travel.”
The second part of the documentary, scheduled to air in 2017, will focus on Scott Kelly’s recovery, as well as the science gathered during his time in space. Once back on the ground, NASA will study what happens to the mind and body during and after long-duration space travel. Part Two of A Year in Space also will explore the future of humanity’s attempts to live beyond Earth.
“What will it take — technically and socially — to travel to and establish outposts on other planets, moons and asteroids?” PBS asks.
- To learn more, visit: http://www.pbs.org/a-year-in-space/home
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