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19 Sep, 2015 14:45

Astronaut Scott Kelly on space work: What time zone is on ISS & where veggies & drugs come in

Astronaut Scott Kelly on space work: What time zone is on ISS & where veggies & drugs come in

Living and working in space some 400 kilometers above Earth, Scott Kelly comes down somewhat to chat with Larry King and reveal what it’s like to perform tests and experiments as the International Space Station whooshes by in low orbit at 27,500 km/h.

Kelly is on a 12-month mission and when it is completed, it will be the longest any American astronaut has ever taken in space.

Although the ISS orbits the Earth 16 times a day, the researchers on board the station stick carefully to the schedule and Greenwich time.

“We get up at about 6 or 7 in the morning, Greenwich time, the time a lot of Europe is on, and we go to sleep at 10 to 11 at night,” Kelly said, explaining that it is a good compromise because astronauts have to interact with “a bunch of different control centers around the world,” namely in the US, Russia, Japan and Germany.

The space station is an international program and people working there come from different countries, which have space programs of their own, but partnership comes first and American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts do work in each other’s segments of the ISS and use equipment and laboratories successively.

“We do work sometime independently, but… we share just about everything,” Kelly said. “Astronauts and cosmonauts are great partners.”

To keep in good physical shape in zero gravity, Kelly exercises a lot. It is exactly the changes his body suffers in space that is subject to close observation and control.

Scott Kelly has got an identical twin brother on Earth and when the astronaut gets back, their health will be scrupulously compared and researched, such as the effects of space radiation. This information will be valuable for future interplanetary space flights.

“I feel good but there are other effects that we need to study as I go along and will continue to study when I get back,” Kelly said.

Identical twins have almost identical genetics so any changes taking place because of microgravity or radiation impacts will become evident.

Another direction of scientific work aboard the ISS is the so-called ‘veggie’ experiments “to see how well we can grow food in space.

“We’ve done that before up here, but in this case we’ve been allowed to eat some of it,” said the astronaut, recalling that the “last time we did it all of the vegetables went to the ground.

“This time we were allowed to eat half of it and it was great. And it tastes good.

“If we want to go on Mars some day or live in places that lack resupply… we get to know how to do that,” Kelly said.

Over the year that Kelly spends on the ISS, he will participate in more than 400 different experiments.

“Probably about 30 percent of them are ways to improve life on Earth,” he estimated, mentioning the development of new drugs for certain types of diseases,” such as bone loss or muscle wasting.

A number of drugs have already been developed based on ISS research, Kelly revealed.

“Tomorrow we’ve got some combustion experiments going on in the US experiments laboratory module – looking for ways to improve combustion efficiency.

“I like to think about the space program, how it allows us to improve our ability to fly satellites into orbit and communicate with space vehicles. If you look at how we live our lives today – most of what we do from a technology standpoint relies on space technology,” said Kelly, who recently addressed the US authorities, calling to allocate the money needed for both the current manned flight on Russian spaceships to the ISS and domestic construction of new space vehicles for the American space program.

Scott Kelly confessed that aboard the ISS they work hard.

“We work from, probably, the time we wake up,” Kelly said.

Each day begins with checking out the day’s schedule, to “see what we are going to do that day, and do preparations for some activities.

“The work goes on from 7 in the morning till 7 in the evening. Then I have a few hours for offline and email activity. Pretty soon comes time to sleep,” said the astronaut.

When it comes to fun, the ISS team read books, watch movies and TV shows. Kelly says he recently tried to re-watch Breaking Bad.

“Generally we watch movies one time on the weekend. All six of us [the number of researchers currently on the ISS] get together to watch a movie.”