Countdown begins: NJ astronaut’s #YearInSpace ends next week
The countdown has begun, and in one week, 52-year-old astronaut Scott Kelly - a New Jersey native - will have accomplished something no other American has ever done.
The NJ native who was born in Orange and raised in West Orange, and whose twin brother, Mark, is also a part of the space program - has spent the last year living aboard the International Space Station. His mission began on march 27, 2015 when he launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. He is set to return to Earth on March 1 and will touchdown in Kazakhstan before returning to Houston the following day, according to NASA's website. Also returning will be Kelly's crewmate, cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov, of the Russian space agency Roscosmos.
According to NASA, once Kelly returns to Earth, "he will hold the record among U.S. astronauts for cumulative time in space, with 520 days."
In a NASA YouTube video, with 10 percent of the mission still remaining, Kelly said he's trying not to look at it like it's over. The astronaut said his team has accomplished a great deal in the past year.
"We absolutely accomplished an incredible amount of work," Kelly said. "I think by and large our time here had demonstrated not only the capability for us to stay in space for a long time and do well but for the ground teams to support the systems that keep us alive....and do this in a way that is forward-thinking toward a potential flight to Mars."
According to NASA's website, Kelly and Kornienko spent much of their time in the International Space Station participating in several studies "to provide new insights into how the human body adjusts to weightlessness, isolation, radiation and the stress of long-duration spaceflight, which will include the Journey to Mars."
As part of these tests, Kelly’s twin brother, also a former astronaut, conducted parallel tests on Earth so that scientists could compare data on how the body and mind respond to various elements in space.
"It's been a great success and a real privilege to be a part of it," Kelly said.
Over the past year, Kelly has become somewhat of an Internet celebrity. His tweets and Facebook posts have been shared thousands of times and he's developed a following ranging from space enthusiasts to celebrities who look forward to his #YearInSpace and #EarthArt pictures depicting colorful images of the earth as seen from space. He's even tweeted pictures from above the Super Bowl as well as images of major storms including the recent January blizzard that dumped roughly two feet of snow on some areas of the state.
Kelly's final press conference from orbit before his return to Earth will take place this Thursday at 12:05 p.m. on NASA television.
Toniann Antonelli is the digital managing editor for news at NJ 101.5. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @ToniRadio1015.