One year ago, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly lifted off for the International Space Station. (He hitched a ride aboard the Russian Soyuz rocket, since NASA doesn’t fly its own manned rockets anymore.)
One year: That’s the longest any American has ever spent in space.
He spent the time working, exercising, and posting a year’s worth of stunning photos and fascinating updates on Twitter and Instagram.
And Tuesday he returned to earth. (The landing was broadcast live on NASA’s website.)
To bring you up to speed on who he is and what he was doing up there, here’s an excerpt from my interview with Kelly from a CBS Sunday Morning profile of him that we filmed just days before his liftoff. (You canwatch that story here.) The day before he departed for Russia, he invited the CBS crew and me to breakfast at his home with his girlfriend, NASA public affairs executive Amiko Kauderer.
POGUE: So, a year in space. Is this just because it’s there? Or is it preparation for Mars?
KELLY: I think it’s mostly in preparation for going to Mars or somewhere else that’s going to take us much longer than what our current experience base is. And in the United States, that’s 220 days.
POGUE: Did the fact that you’re an identical twin [of former astronaut Mark Kelly, husband of Rep. Gabby Giffords] influence your selection?
KELLY: Actually, that was not something that was discussed until after I was picked for this flight. I asked, “So if a reporter or somebody asks about doing comparative research between my brother and me, how should I answer that question?”
And the answer I got was, “We’re not considering doing anything like that. So just be honest about it.”
But then they thought about it: You know, actually, we have all this data on my brother, we’re identical twins. Maybe there is some merit in doing a genetic study between the two of us. And they put out requests and got a lot of interest.
POGUE: So he’s going to be sort of the control on the ground?
POGUE: What will you be doing for a year up there?
KELLY: We do a lot of science on the space station. Over the course of the year, there’ll be 400 to 500 different investigations in all different kinds of disciplines. Some are related to improving life on earth in material science, physics, combustion science, earth sciences, medicine. And then there’s exploration-related science: expanding our ability to live and work in space. And then also a part of this is this whole genetic component with my brother and me.