When we think of space, we often think of black holes, aliens, and the overwhelming realization that we’re very small in comparison to whatever else is out there. For people like Scott Kelly, an American astronaut who spent a year in space, space is like a second home full of fascination.
Although several astronauts signed up to do the job, Kelly ended up walking away with the privilege. Previous to his year in space, he had logged six months of time in space on three prior missions, so it wasn’t like he was a stranger to living up above the Earth. After his return to Earth, Kelly announced that he’d be retiring from NASA, but there are still a few things Kelly will be involved in going forward.
Now that Kelly is back to real life, there have been tons of stories and news updates on him. Everybody knows when he got back, when he took off, and of all the records he broke. However, there’s tons of small, interesting facts not too many people know about him and his time up in space. Here are 15 awesome things you didn’t know about Scott Kelly’s year in space.
15. The “Twin Study”
While Kelly was up in space, it was kind of hard to record how his body would be changed and affected by space – luckily, Kelly has a twin brother who is also an astronaut. That twin brother Mark works for NASA as well and has also spent time up above the Earth. With Mark down on Earth and Scott in space, NASA was able to compare and contrast the brother’s with several different aspects once Kelly returned to see how being up in space for a year altered his body. Going forward, NASA is hoping to conduct something with Mars in mind with the “Twin Study” – whether that means using Mark and Scott or another pair of twins.
14. Longest time spent in space
While Scott Kelly didn’t break the record for most time spent in space ever, he did set the record for most time spent in space for an American. Kelly was up in space for 342 days, just shy of a whole entire year. Russia holds the world record for most time spent in space. Valeri Polyakov, a Russian cosmonaut, spent 437 days in space, which means he holds the record for most time in space spent by a human being.
13. He wasn’t alone
While saying “he wasn’t alone” may allude to the fact that Kelly saw aliens, that’s hardly the fact (for all we know). Kelly was actually accompanied by Mikhail Kornienko of Russia. Both men are pretty equal when it comes to time spent in space, whereas before the almost year-long mission Kelly spent 180 days in space while Kornienko spent 176. Kornienko’s most recent mission before Kelly began his long journey ended just a few weeks prior to Kelly taking off.
12. Kelly’s last mission was interrupted
As said before, Kelly has visited space several times – and his previous mission was cut short. Kelly was the commander of Expedition 26 in 2010 and 2011, but his sister-in-law was shot in an attempted assassination so he ended up returning to Earth months before he was supposed to. He landed on Earth on March 11, 2011, and meet his sister-in-law in a rehabilitation center a little over two months after she was shot.
11. Total days spent in space
Even though spending almost a year in space, 342 days to be exact, seems like a really long time, Kelly has spent much more time in space overall. Since he has been on more than just the one mission, the numbers and days start to add up. Between his few missions, and having to serviced the Hubble Space Telescope, and a docking period at Space Shuttle Endeavor, Kelly has racked up 522 total days in space. The record prior to this was held by Mike Finke, who had 382 days of space time logged.
10. He saw tons of sunrises and sunsets
While Kelly was up in space, he got to see numerous sunrises and sunsets; every day, he was able to see the sun go up and the sun go down in different parts of the world. Kelly was travelling at 17,000 miles per hour, so he was able to see the Earth plenty of times. As a result of this, he saw a total of 10,944 sunrises and sunsets over the span of a 342 day mission. The International Space Station circumnavigates the Earth once every ninety minutes, so it’s no wonder Kelly was able to see the amount of sunrises and sunsets that he did.
9. He came back taller
When Kelly returned to Earth, he was noticeably taller; he actually grew 1.5 inches while he was in space. The reason behind this is that spinal discs expand without gravity weighing down on them, meaning most astronauts return back slightly taller. However, he didn’t get to keep the new height – pretty much right when he landed back in Earth, he shrank back down to his normal height. On top of being taller, Kelly also returned 0.01 seconds younger than he would’ve been if he hadn’t gone to space (this can be credited to the time dilation effect).
8. Major discomfort back at home
Being up in space is a lot different than living on Earth for a million reasons. Kelly got to experience every single one of those reasons, and while it might be something cool to experience, he’s now paying the consequences. The side effects of being up in space and then returning to Earth are unavoidable no matter what precautions astronauts take. He has encountered extreme muscle soreness and fatigue, the sensation of his skin burning, and not being able to play basketball like he did before he was in space. This can all be credited to cramped living conditions and incredibly low-gravity conditions while he was in space.
7. He didn’t shower for the whole mission
The International Space Station doesn’t have the luxury of running water, so Kelly wasn’t able to shower for the full 342 days he was in space. Before returning to the United States, Kelly landed in Kazahkstan and was finally able to take a real, hot shower. When he returned home, one of the first things he did was jump into his pool, fully clothed. Kelly is quoted as saying on history.com, “You want to get that water around you. We make do with not having a shower on-board, and it’s not like you feel dirty, but you definitely feel like you would like to jump in a pool. So I did.”
6. He was in-the-know
You might think that being up in space would completely isolate you from the world you once knew, but Kelly actually was able to stay up-to-date with current events on Earth. In his free time, he was able to watch television shows and movies, along with the news. He also kept his Twitter, Instagram and Facebook relevant for family, friends and fans. Kelly was so in-the-know with what was going on down below that one of the first things he asked when he returned to Earth on March 1st was who won the Super Tuesday primaries elections.
5. Mars study
Since NASA was able to conduct such a successful study with Scott Kelly and his twin brother Mark, it’s being considered for future missions. NASA plans to send a manned vessel to Mars by the 2030’s, and having a twin study like the one the Kelly brothers were able to help out with will make the mission that much more well-rounded for both history and science alike.
4. First meal on Earth?
It’s really hard to imagine being able to cook anything that tastes yummy up in space – there is no doubt that Kelly most likely missed all of his home-cooked favorites while eating freeze dried food for almost one whole year. When he finally returned back to Earth from space, the first thing that he ate was…Just wait for it… A banana. Apparently, he only finished half of his fruit.
3. He already has his next vacation planned
Being up in space and revolving the Earth thousands of times, Kelly was able to get a good look at the entire globe and all the beauty it has to offer. With that being said, it’s no surprise that Kelly was able to decide where he wanted to vacation to next after returning home from space. Kelly describes the waters of the Bahamas as “just striking”, and also had kind words to say about the different colored lakes of the Himalayas. We can’t say we disagree.
2. Not used to the time schedule
While Kelly was up in space, everything was done pretty much down to the minute. Millions of dollars went into Kelly’s mission, so it’s easy to understand why everything would have to be scheduled and carried out so meticulously. While Kelly had free time while in space, there was still quite a bit to pay attention to and do. Now that Kelly is back to Earth and announced his retirement (along with those vacation plans), there’s not a ton of strict scheduling that he has to stick to, which is still throwing him off.
Global warming, climate change, and making more of an effort to take care of the Earth is quite “in” and “popular” these days. Not only do we expect to live here for all eternity, but we also want a positive environment for generations ahead of our own. Kelly noted that while in space, he saw just how destructive human beings are to the planet. Kelly was able to see plenty of pollution, a lot of it hanging just above Asia, as well as strange weather in areas it shouldn’t necessarily be.