An American "rocket man" is scheduled to take off into orbit this coming Friday, with the hope of setting an endurance record at a time when the U.S. space program might seem to be in eclipse. Our Cover Story is reported by David Pogue of Yahoo Tech:
"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth."
It was a time when dreams about spaceflight came true. It was a giant leap for mankind. But since then, it seems we've taken a step back -- and in 2011, when the space shuttles stopped flying, a lot of people kind of forgot about NASA.
But NASA's still here. And five days from now, it will launch one of its most ambitious missions to date: sending 51-year-old astronaut Scott Kelly to the International Space Station for 12 months. That's twice as long as his last trip to space in 2010, and a new record for an American astronaut.
"Last time I felt like I was kind of taking a long business trip," Kelly told Pogue. "This time it's more like I feel like I'm just moving and I'm not coming back."
Without the space shuttle, Kelly has only one way to get into space: aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. He'll take off from the world's oldest space launch facility, the Baikonur Cosmodrome, in southern Kazakhstan.
He'll be traveling with Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka. And in case you're wondering, Kelly says political tensions between the countries are left on Earth as the men embark on a cramped, six-hour journey to the space station.
Kelly showed Pogue a replica of the Soyuz spacecraft at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "It's not very big," Kelly said.
"I gotta ask you: it doesn't look like cutting-edge technology, it looks like '60s technology," said Pogue.
"Some of it is," said Kelly. "The good news is, it works, you know, most of the time. They've had a couple accidents. But, you know, so did we on the space shuttle. Risky. But you know, flying in space is a risky thing."
If Scott Kelly looks familiar, well, it might be because he has a famous twin brother -- Mark Kelly, a retired astronaut himself, and husband of former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.
"I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that I wish I was blasting off in a rocket in a couple of months," said Mark.
He won't be on the space station, but Mark is part of the mission, as an identical control subject on the ground. By comparing the twins' biology over the year, scientists hope to learn more about what happens to you after a long time in space, like bone loss and muscle loss -- important groundwork for an eventual mission to Mars.
But physical changes are only part of the story. There's the mental challenge of living in a six-room box in space for a year.