'Mars landing' after year on ISS: Russian cosmonaut's suitability for interplanetary flights tested
The experiment named Sozvezdie (meaning 'constellation' in English) imitated landing on Mars, Russian State Space Corporation Roscosmos announced this week. Kornienko, who completed his 340 day long mission in space this week, has been immediately subjected to several new tests, to see how his body functions after almost a year away from Earth’s gravitational pull.
"The experiment has been designed to help us work on interplanetary flights. When a cosmonaut is landing somewhere else in space, no one will meet him there, there will be no helping at hand. So we must clearly understand exactly what and when cosmonauts are able to do without assistance," Elena Tomilovskaya of the Biomedical Institute, which studies human abilities in extreme conditions, said.
Dressed in a new version of a spacesuit, Kornienko has successfully completed a number of actions imitating landing on a different planet, Roscosmos said. The cosmonaut fulfilled various tasks in conditions simulating those of Mars. He has even driven a virtual rover in subgravity, with scientists having modeled Mars's conditions in the training center, with the red planet's gravity being more than twice less strong than on Earth.
Kornienko himself has been quite positive about potential Mars missions. When asked if it was possible to farm potatoes on the red planet (a question inspired by Hollywood blockbuster, The Martian), the Russian cosmonaut said not only potatoes but other vegetables could be grown on Mars.
The cosmonaut also underwent some new tests when he was on orbit. Scientists and doctors paid particular attention to his eyesight, as it has been observed before that people in space experience reduction of vision due to pressure changes. They are now looking for ways to reduce harm to cosmonauts' eyes.
In the US, astronaut Scott Kelly is also taking part in similar experiments for interplanetary flights, with the two countries to later exchange and share their achievements.
Doctors expect that Kornienko's rehabilitation period will not be long, and he will be fit enough to return to the International Space Station (ISS) in six months' time. But in the meantime he needs to spend some three weeks in Russia's Star City (cosmonauts' training center), before he is allowed to return to his daily routine on Earth.