Astronaut Scott Kelly is finding his Earth legs after a 340-day stay on the International Space Station (ISS), a trying trip even for seasoned space travelers. There must be. As I said from the launchpad before we lifted off for the final flight of Space Shuttle Endeavour in 2011, it is in the DNA of our great country to explore. “Whether it’s science, or going to a certain destination”.
Robinson noted that the one-year mission is helping NASA model a transit to and from Mars.
The world record holder for longest single spaceflight in human history is Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov, who spent 438 days in orbit aboard the Mir space station in 1994-95.
At an event at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Mr. Kelly said that the extra six months he spent on the International Space Station (ISS), double the time that any other American has spent there, had taken its toll. He experienced fatigue and said soreness in his atrophied bones and muscles was, “a lot higher than last time”.
Researchers have been studying whether he and his identical twin brother, former astronaut Mark Kelly, are as genetically similar now as they were before Scott Kelly’s launch in March 2015. “I tried to shoot some basketballs yesterday, and I didn’t get any of them in the net”.
Make no mistake, “a year’s a long time”, according to Kelly.
Asked if the brothers noticed anything else different about each other upon being reunited, Scott answered: “He’s got a better tan”. “He’s got a better tan”, he quipped.
“On my first flight that was seven days, I had that tendency to want to let something go, but never again”. But that height gain will be short-lived, NASA officials said.
And while Kelly did say he grew an inch and a half in space, (possibly giving him a height advantage over his twin Mark for the first time in his life) he knows that benefit will disappear quickly. Kelly’s twin brother, a retired astronaut, participated in parallel studies on Earth.
For example, without gravity signalling to the inner ear (which is key to maintaining balance), a person can suffer from ‘motion sickness.’ In some cases this can result in nausea and vomiting, just as it does on earth. Once Kelly landed in Kazakhstan, he was flown home to Houston, Texas where he was greeted by his family, friends, America’s second lady, Jill Biden, scientists, journalists, and fans.
As the NASA scientists said, perhaps 340 days is “close enough”. “We make do with not having a shower on board [the space station] – I definitely feel like I would like jump in a pool”.
Kelly, who has been to space several times for varying lengths of time, is open to a variety of ways for people to have a taste of what he’s done.
“I think being able to see the Earth from space is pretty intimidating because you realize how small we are in terms of the rest of the galaxy”.
He reiterated this message Friday. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a press release that this data will help us “take one giant leap toward putting boots on Mars”. “The first people that go there, that will be a big motivation, to be the first people that go to Mars”. Radiation also poses a major challenge for Mars missions, along the durability of astronauts’ bodies and minds. “We must lead, we must learn, and we must discover”. He flew 144 million miles on his almost year-long voyage, took part in three space walks and performed more than 400 scientific studies, from the macro (dark matter) to the micro (stem cells), with forays into vegetable growing. But he’s hopeful for the future of commercial spaceflight and sees opportunities for himself in that field.