#YearInSpace: A look back at how a NJ astronaut made history
On Sunday afternoon, astronaut Scott Kelly tweeted a picture of the moon from his seat aboard the International Space Station. It will likely be the last photo he takes of the moon, at least until he returns to Earth on March 1.
When he returns to Earth from nearly a year on the ISS, the 52-year-old astronaut – a West Orange native – will have accomplished something no other American has ever done. According to NASA, once Kelly lands on the planet, “he will hold the record among U.S. astronauts for cumulative time in space, with 520 days.”
Kelly's mission was years in the making, and the journey itself was historic in many ways, from the parallel medical testing he and his twin brother Mark conducted and experiments aimed at preparing for an eventual mission to Mars, to the photos he shared with the world.
Here's a look back at some of the astronaut's most noteworthy moments from his #YearInSpace.
All systems go
Before leaving for a year's stay in the ISS, Kelly and his crew along - Russian Cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka - underwent extensive training. They learned everything from how the ISS operates, how to repair the systems on the station, and what to do in case of an emergency, to how to be "space gardeners."
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 Mark, 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.
We have liftoff
Kelly and his crew left Earth aboard the Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft as part of Expedition 43. They launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on March 28, 2015.
Experiencing Earth....from Space
While traveling thousands of miles above Earth, Kelly still experienced many of the events that shaped the past year - but needless to say, his experiences differed quite a bit. From storms to sporting events, the astronaut shared his views from the ISS.
Over the past year, Kelly became somewhat of an Internet celebrity, especially on Facebook and Twitter. Followers 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. He's tweeted at President Barack Obama about the State of the Union, and even chatted with a former president from the ISS.
Happy holidays from space
When you're not even on the same planet as your family and friends for the holidays, and you lack the typical food and festivities, you find ways to make the best of the situation. From something resembling a Thanksgiving dinner to eerie #EarthArt on Halloween, Kelly managed to make the holidays festive.
Ever wonder how Santa manages to travel around the globe so quickly on Christmas Eve? This might provide some insight...reindeer not included.
Astronauts just wanna have fun
You can't expect a NJ native to spend a year in space and not have fun with it, can you? Kelly's year aboard the ISS was a lot of hard work, but the astronaut and his cosmonaut companions also proved that serious spacemen can have a sense of humor.
For example, ever wonder how astronauts play ping-pong?
And here's proof that "The Force Awakens"....even on the ISS
You can't really expect a guy to go all the way to outer space and NOT take a selfie, especially after a spacewalk.
How does your garden grow in space?
According to NASA, the ISS crew was part of a Veggie Plant Growth System, and one of the fruits of their labor was a zinnia plant that Kelly dubbed #spaceflower. The flowering crop experiment began on Nov. 16, 2015, according to NASA. Astronaut Kjell Lindgren initially activated the system and its rooting "pillows" containing zinnia seeds. The experiment was a chance for scientists on Earth to learn how plants grow in microgravity. Kelly and the crew maintained the plants, which at one point "weren't looking too good." Soon enough, however, the plants seemed to come back to life.
Reflecting, remembering and celebrating
This past year, on Jan. 28, Americans reflected on the 30th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. From his temporary home aboard the ISS, Kelly also remembered the crew of Challenger with a moment of silence that also paid tribute to the crews of Apollo 1 and Columbia.
"I'd like to take a moment of silence to recognize the sacrifice of all those crew members and how their spirit and their legacy lives on in our achievement in space," Kelly said.
In addition, the astronauts marked other occasions, from Veterans Day, to birthdays and milestones of their mission.
Kelly, the brother-in-law of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, also took a moment to mark the five-year anniversary of the shooting that left her seriously injured.
The world is a canvas
During his mission, Kelly tweeted countless pics of what he called #EarthArt. Stunning views above the planet of deserts, mountains, oceans and clouds. The astronaut seem to have a special fondness for the colors captured while flying over Africa.
Two if by space
A huge part of Kelly's mission involved parallel medical testing with his twin brother Mark - also an astronaut. The study was meant to help scientists gain a better understanding of the impacts of spaceflight on the human body. Scott and Mark underwent exams throughout the years at the same time, even administering flu shots simultaneously.
There's no place like home
Last week, in preparation for his voyage back to Earth, Kelly, in conjunction with NASA, held a live press conference from aboard the ISS which was streamed live. The astronaut discussed his #YearInSpace, his accomplishments and what he plans to do upon his return, which includes several hours of medical testing at the Johnson Space enter in Houston, followed by going home and jumping in his swimming pool.
He also was asked during the press conference about how his New Jersey upbringing prepared him for his career. Kelly responded by reflecting on his childhood in the Garden State and how he and his twin brother were always very adventurous children.
Kelly is scheduled to land on Earth March 1.
Toniann Antonelli is the digital managing editor for news at NJ 101.5. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @ToniRadio1015.