‘We rely on each other’ no matter what the political situation on Earth – ISS crew to RT

 International Space Station © Mark Garcia
Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Korniyenko and US astronaut Scott Kelly have told RT that they do follow news from Earth, but political tensions down here have no effect on operations aboard the International Space Station.

“The politics down on Earth do not interfere with our work up in space. And, probably, it’s a good example to follow for all politicians down there on Earth – the way we operate here as an international crew,” Korniyenko said during a live Q&A session with RT.

The Russian cosmonaut’s stance was heartily shared by his US counterpart – Kelly stressed that “unfortunate political things” do not affect relationships between ISS crew members.

“On the one hand we’re aware of what’s going on Earth. We follow the news. But what’s most important to us up here is that we’re one big team. We’re a crew. We’re great friends. We rely on each other for, you know, literally our lives,” he said.

“I will be up here with just the two [Russian] cosmonauts. If something was to happen to me they would be the guys to take care of me and vice versa,” the astronaut added.

The successful cooperation aboard the ISS proves that nothing is impossible for humanity when it stands united, Kelly said.  

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly (R) shakes hands with Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Korniyenko © Charles Platiau

“We do things that are amazing every day: just keeping this place [the ISS] running, just keeping us alive. And it really gives me hope in what our potential is as species. You know, if we can have people from all around the world living in a space station for 15 years, and you know maintaining this environment and keeping us alive then there’s nothing that’s beyond our potential,” he explained.

Keeping the International Space Station operational is an even more remarkable feat, taking into account the size of the station, Kelly stressed.

The ISS may seem compact on video, but “It’s about the size of a large house, actually. You know, I never get the sense that there’s not enough room up here… The working and livable volume in here is fairly large for six people,” he said.

Korniyenko and Kelly arrived at the station in March as part of a one-year mission to study the health effects of long term spaceflight.

It’s both spacemen’s second time to the ISS, but when asked about whether he’d take on the even longer mission to Mars, Kelly’s reply was: “I’d probably do it.”

“I’m a kind of a type of person that likes challenge. If I had the opportunity I’d probably volunteer,” he said.

However, with a flight to the Red Planet still a distant possibility, the 51-year-old added that he was “sure they can find some younger and capable folks to go on that mission.”

Kelly also said that his months on the ISS have made “me appreciate my freedom more. We’re living in a very close environment and on a very controlled schedule. And just having the ability to walk outside and to do what you want, when you want, is something that I think I’ll value much more.”

Both the Russian and American recalled looking at the Earth from outside the station during the spacewalk as the mission’s “wow moment,” with Korniyenko saying it had left him with “unforgettable feelings.”

“The first thing I’ll do after landing… I’ll go a swimming pool and then go the sauna in the Star City [outside Moscow]. I’m dreaming about that,” the Russian cosmonaut said.

Answering questions from web users, the duo had to confess that they had received no specific instructions from their space agencies about what to do if the ISS was contacted by an alien spacecraft.