Astronaut Scott Kelly has blasted off on his yearlong mission to the International Space Station.
The capsule carrying Kelly and two Russian cosmonauts was launched into space by a Soyuz-FG booster rocket, lifting off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:42 p.m. ET.
The journey to the International Space Station is expected to take 6 hours.
Of the three-man team, American Scott Kelly and Russian Mikhail Kornienko are to stay at the International Space Station until March 2016. Their trip is NASA's first stab at a one-year spaceflight, anticipating Mars expeditions that would last two-to-three years.
“This is an important step forward to start utilizing ISS more effectively in preparation for human missions to Mars,” Chris Carberry, executive director of Explore Mars, a non-profit organization which aims to advance the goal of sending humans to Mars, told FoxNews.com. “We look forward to more ambitious missions at ISS and beyond that help achieve human landings on Mars in the 2030s.”
During his year orbiting the earth Kelly will take part in a landmark NASA study into the effects of space on the human body, with scientists comparing his data to that of twin brother Mark, a former astronaut, back on earth. Mark Kelly’s blood samples, exercise, and overall health will be monitored by scientists from 12 universities to gain insight into the impact of the yearlong mission on his brother.
At the end of his mission to the International Space Station, Scott Kelly will become the first American to spend 12 consecutive months in space.
Kelly and his Russian counterpart Kornienko have each already logged about 180 days in space, according to Space.com. Kelly has made three previous missions to space and Kornienko spent 6 months aboard the International Space Station in 2010.
Kornienko is the fifth Russian cosmonaut to undertake a one-year space mission.
The third member of the crew, cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, will spend about 6 months on the International Space Station before returning to Earth.
Friday’s mission is Kelly’s second trip to the International Space Station. The former U.S. Navy pilot spent just over 5 months on the space station between October 2010 and March 2011.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report