On March 27, 2015, astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko climbed inside a Soyuz rocket to travel to the International Space Station, in orbit 248 miles above Earth.
This morning, as Kelly got ready to make the journey back to Earth, he posted a photo of his last sunrise from space.
They show our planet at its scariest.
Its most vulnerable.
And its most beautiful.
With this voyage aboard the ISS and his three previous spaceflights, Kelly has spent 520 days in space — more than any other American before.
That’s great news for NASA researchers. From seeing how Kelly’s body reacts to long-duration spaceflight, NASA will be better prepared for future missions that travel even farther into space — like a round-trip mission to Mars (Matt Damon not included).
Twin powers activate!
That’s not the only mission Kelly has been a part of this year. Together with his identical twin brother — who is also an astronaut — Scott has participated in 10 investigations as part of NASA’s Twin Study.
Because Scott and Mark share the same genetics but are spending the year in two very different places, NASA is able to test how environmental effects like gravity and sunlight affect their bodies differently.
By the time you read this, Kelly will have started his journey home.
He and Kornienko are expected to land on Earth in Kazakhstan at around 10:45 p.m. Houston time (Central) on Wednesday, March 2 (based on current weather).
About 24 hours later, he’ll be back in Houston to spend the next few months in intensive rehab. Spending a year in space takes a lot out of a guy — namely in the form of bone density — so Kelly will need a few months of rest and recuperation to strengthen his bones for life on Earth.
If you’re a space-keener like me, you can watch a live-stream of Kelly’s arrival in Houston on Thursday, March 3 online at NASA’s website.
Safe travels, Cmdr. Kelly!