Just before his twin brother returned from a year in space, former astronaut Mark Kelly had a few things to say about staying home.
Mark Kelly on the medical studies he’s doing during Scott’s deployment: “There are several universities that are involved in the twin studies, including Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins, University of Pennsylvania, Purdue, and Stanford. It’s been over a year now, since before my brother launched last March. They’ll randomly show up at my house or a hotel room somewhere, and they’ll take blood samples, saliva samples, urine samples, stool samples. Everything they can get. I also go to NASA about once a quarter to do MRIs and ultrasounds of certain parts of my body, like my brain, heart, some big blood vessels, and my eyeball. [Scott uses] an ultrasound machine up there. And he sends blood down to the ground. He takes his own blood. It’s sent down on a SpaceX spacecraft.”
Mark Kelly on commercial space companies: “When SpaceX started and said that they were gonna orbit a spacecraft without government assistance and retrieve it in the ocean, I thought there was no way. That’s a thing that governments do. Not small companies. And they did it, then later they docked at the space station. They had one mishap, but it’s still a difficult business. I do some consulting for them now, but even before I did that I was rapidly changing my mind on the commercialisation thing. I’m the director of flight-crew operations here in Tucson for a company called World View. It’s space tourism but also a company for payloads. We’re gonna be lifting spacecraft via helium balloon up above 100 000 feet.”
Mark Kelly on returning from space: “It’s different between the shuttle and what my brother’s doing. On the space shuttle you slow down a little bit over the Middle East and the Indian Ocean. By the time you hit Australia, you’re in a giant fireball. But you’ve got to fly all the way back to a runway in Florida. You don’t have the option to go anywhere else. With a capsule – what my brother’s going to return in – the difference is you can pretty much throw it into the atmosphere like a rock. If the parachute opens at the end, it’s survivable. But even on a normal landing, it’s like getting in a car accident. Everybody who does it for the first time is surprised at how violent it is.”
Mark Kelly on reuniting with his brother: “I’ll be in Houston when he gets there, so we’re going to have a welcome-back-to-Earth party a few days later at a friend’s house. He says he’s looking forward to a real salad. There’s not much in the way of fresh vegetables on the space station.”
Scott’s Year in Instagram Posts
DAY 311 – When you think of beautiful things. Don’t forget Earth.
DAY 292 – My window seat at #SOTU tonight. Last year #POTUS told me “Instagram it!”
DAY 154 – EarthArt Is it teal, turquoise, blue-green, aqua, or seafoam?
DAY 138 – Himalayas in #EarthArt form look a bit like a funnel cake.
DAY 123 – GoodMorning #USA and #Canada! You were very colourful this morning. #YearinSpace
This article was originally published in the May 2016 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine.