Astronaut Scott Kelly, essentially the closest real-life approximation of Mark Watney there is, is returning to Earth today after a year in space aboard the International Space Station. He will be returning inside of the Russian-made Soyuz reentry capsule alongside Mikhail Kornienko, the cosmonaut who also spent a year in space.
Their return can be viewed live in the stream below, and the (EST) schedule, according to NASA, is as follows:
- 7:45 p.m. — Undocking coverage; undocking scheduled at 8:05 p.m.
- 10:15 p.m. — Deorbit burn and landing coverage; deorbit burn scheduled at 10:32 p.m., with landing at 11:25 p.m. (10:25 a.m. on March 2, Kazakhstan time)
Kelly’s momentous return marks the end of a mission that was vital for aerospace research for numerous reasons.
First of all, Kelly is the twin brother of Mark Kelly — also an astronaut, as well as an engineer and naval aviator. Using Scott as the test subject and Mark as the control, NASA will be able to study the effects of long-term spaceflight on the human body. Extended periods in space can have myriad negative impacts on one’s health, including fluid redistribution, muscle and bone atrophy, increased radiation exposure, and impaired vision.
According to NASA, “These investigations [into the Kelly twins] will provide broader insight into the subtle effects and changes that may occur in spaceflight as compared to Earth by studying two individuals who have the same genetics, but are in different environments for one year.”
Kelly’s year in space was critical. If humanity wants to make it to Mars—and hell yeah, we do—then that means sending people on a very long mission to the Red Planet. Although estimates vary (as the distance between Mars and Earth is in constant flux, and technology is constantly advancing), there seems to be an implicit consensus around 260 days for a one-way trip. This means that astronauts will be subjected to conditions including weightlessness, increased exposure to radiation, and limited mobility for about nine months. Kelly’s year aboard the ISS was the perfect way to analyze the physiological effects such a trip may have on participants.
Along with all of the vital scientific research, Kelly’s year in space has also provided some of the most awe-inspiring and beautiful moments to come out of space travel, including a never-ending series of gorgeous photos, as well as water-drop ping pong!
If you want to watch one of Kelly’s last recorded interviews aboard the ISS, you can check out The Daily Conversation‘s interview with him below:
What do you think about Scott Kelly’s year in space? Let us know in the comments section below!