Astronaut Scott Kelly gives us a tour of his rocket. He also shows us how to use a fancy stick to push the buttons.
On March 27, 2015, Scott Kelly will be leaving Earth for space.
He'll be doing something no American has ever done before: living in space for almost a full year.
He'll be joined by Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko.
They're going to be running experiments that will help NASA—and, therefore, humankind—figure out how we might make it to Mars.
The rocket taking them to the space station isn't too roomy.
I can just see the Craigslist post now: "Cozy one-bedroom, all new appliances, great for sharing. One-year lease required."
The rocket is actually called a Soyuz capsule.
And, it's not all fun and astronaut ice cream in the Soyuz capsule.
For example, because the buttons are so far out of reach during blastoff, a lot of astronauts use a high-tech device to push them.
That high tech device is called a stick. Not even a space stick. Just a stick.
Unbelievable, but true. Unless Scott is playing one last Earth prank on us?
And in that tiny spacecraft, with their "fancy" stick, they fly in circles, not straight lines, to get to the space station.
Maybe, like me, you once imagined that the rocket zooms straight up off the ground and just goes direct as an arrow to the space station?
Nope. It's actually a lot more like looking for parking downtown in a busy city: You circle and circle, making wider and wider loops.
Astronauts literally make a U-turn in the middle of space, then slam on the brakes, and try to glide gently into contact with the space station.
It's called "orbital mechanics," baby.
Then, they have to park their spaceship on another moving spaceship.
At 17,000 miles an hour. No big deal.
They're doing this so that one day we'll get to live on Mars.
"You know NASA's ultimate goal is one day to put people on Mars, so there's a lot we still need to learn about that. Some of it has to do with, you know, how the space environment affects the human body over long periods of time, particularly with regards to bone loss, muscle loss, effects of radiation on our genetics, our vision. We have problems with vision with crew members during long duration space flight. Our immune system, vestibular system. So that's kind of the human part of it, and there's also the hardware part of it, you know, traveling that far away from Earth represents a challenge with regards to how we design our life support systems, how we produce oxygen, produce water, and you know, those kinds of things." — Scott Kelly
That's what makes a year in space worth missing 365 hot showers, 52 pancake breakfasts, and probably the next season of "House of Cards."
Scott's been making longer and longer voyages in space, to practice and research what spending extended time in space is like. (Mars is real far away!)
On prior missions, he's already spent almost 200 days in space. But every day he spends up there, learning and collecting data, is one day closer to the day we land on Mars.
Scott recently gave a tour of his model rocket to a YouTuber named Destin and showed him about all the incredibly challenging things astronauts do while terrifyingly hurtling through space. You can see the whole shebang in the video below. (They also talk about underwear.)