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Four Russian cosmonauts have spent at least one uninterrupted year in space. Another two came close.

The world record _ 14 months in a single mission _ is held by Dr. Valery Polyakov.

“They all are alive and well today. Their health status is quite good for their age,” said Dr. Igor Ushakov, director of the Institute for Biological Problems in Moscow.

Ushakov warned that the medical risks will be at least double what they are on the more typical six-month mission.

NASA space station program scientist Julie Robinson expects the two men to come back just fine. They will watch an assortment of multinational crews come and go during their tenure; up to six people live on the orbiting outpost at any one time.

The loss of bone mass is not nearly the problem it used to be in weightlessness because of improved exercise equipment and procedures, she said. The newest concern is impaired vision related to pressure on the brain and spinal cord; in some cases, astronauts suffer vision problems long after their flight.

In a chart held up by the director of Russia’s piloted space program, Alexey Krasnov, nearly half the slots were red, indicating medical risks to eventual trips to the moon, asteroids and Mars.

“There are many things we don’t know,” Krasnov said. “We should take some risks upon ourselves” now before embarking on such ambitious endeavors beyond Earth’s orbit.

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Online:

NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html