Astronaut Scott Kelly Returns to Earth

Scott Kelly. Photo: Marco Grob
Scott Kelly. Photo: Marco Grob

By Áine Mc Manamon, Advertising and Editorial Assistant
April / May 2016

Irish American astronaut Scott Kelly returned from a year in space after taking part in a NASA study, analyzing the impacts long-term space travel can have on the human body. The mission was aimed at paving the way for an eventual mission to Mars.

While Scott was in space, his twin brother Mark, also an astronaut and, like Scott, a former United States Navy Captain, remained on Earth and was closely monitored during this time as part of NASA’s research. Comparing the brothers will allow scientists to study the effects of space travel on the human body – for example possible visual impairments, brittle bones and weak muscles, effects on the heart, and the impact of being exposed to space radiation.

Already, this study has shown that Scott arrived back two inches taller than his brother, as his spinal disks expanded due to the lack of gravity. Over the next year, NASA will closely study the Kelly twins to determine the impact this trip had on Scott’s health, and he will then have yearly checkups to additionally analyze the long-term impacts.

Their father Richard Kelly recalled in a 2006 interview with Irish America that when the identical twins were eight, three years after man landed on the moon, they told their grandmother, “Grandma, we’re going up in space someday.”

While on his mission, Kelly took hundreds of photos, regularly documenting his view of Earth. During his last press conference on board the I.S.S. he stated, ”I’ve definitely taken some good ones and some memorable ones.”

The Irish American also made history by growing the first ever flower in space, after previously becoming the first person to grow a head of lettuce on the I.S.S., part of research to find new ways of eating in outer space. ♦

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