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Space pioneers press on in ongoing pursuit of cosmic answers

Photo collage courtesy of Sarah Hussain / Red Dirt Report
British astronaut-in-training Maggie Lieu (right), hopes to be the first Earthling to give birth to children on Mars.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Two spacefarers – NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Korniyenko – will, beginning next month, take part in a year-long mission aboard the International Space Station.

As noted in a recent Houston Chronicle story, Kelly will be the first American astronaut to spend a year in space, although Korniyenko won’t be the first Russian to do so – back in the 1980’s and 90’s, four cosmonauts achieved this aboard the Russian Mir space station (which was decommissioned and burned up in Earth’s atmosphere in March 2001).

Speaking to the Chronicle, Julie Robinson, the chief scientist for the ISS said monitoring Kelly and Korniyenko “will give us our first glimpse of what happens to their bodies from six to 12 months. We want to find what risks might lurk there.”

And Kelly said leaving his family for a year will be difficult, but that the trip was “worthwhile to help NASA along the road to Mars.”

Doing 500 science experiments over the course of the year (they return to Earth in spring 2016), Kelly told the Chronicle he can’t wait to return to ISS and that “the space station is a magical place.”

Preparing for the inevitable mission to Mars is key, of course, and it’s not clear if either Kelly or Korniyenko – both middle aged – are candidates for any trips beyond low-Earth orbit. And the multi-billion dollar Mars One project is already paring down the list of applicants who want to make the trip to the Red Planet.

The UK Express newspaper recently interviewed a top candidate for the journey – an astrophysics PhD student at England’s University of Birmingham named Maggie Lieu. The 24-year-old from Coventry, in England’s West Midlands, told the Express that she understands the journey would be a one-way trip fraught with pitfalls from lethal radiation exposure to starvation, and that she would be “honored” to be the first mother on Mars.

“It’s inevitable that humans will have children on Mars and if I could be the first, I would love it,” Lieu told the Express.

She said that with only 40 people going on the first trip, the “pool” of potential fathers would be small and that she is okay with that.

Additionally, in a separate interview with Britain's Guardian newspaper, Lieu said that Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield (who sang David Bowie's "Space Oddity" aboard the ISS last year) was an inspiration, and she wanted to contribute to that tradition of inspiration and exploration, saying, "I just love inspiring younger generations to take part in science."

And perhaps Lieu's Martian offspring will set off for the Jovian system and take humanity to Europa, after all that moon of Jupiter is considered "the prize."

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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