HOUSTON (FOX 26) - After spending nearly a year in space, American astronaut Scott Kelly is on his way back to Houston's Ellington Field.
When his plane lands at around midnight Thursday morning, he'll be greeted by a group of dignitaries including Second Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, and his family, including identical brother and retired astronaut Mark Kelly.
340 days in space is a new record for U-S space flight. It's double the average mission to the International Space Station.
Astronaut Scott Kelly's out of this world mission ended with a breath of fresh air in Kazakhstan Tuesday night. "There's nothing like new cold air coming into the capsule," he said.
Kelly traveled 144 million miles through space circling the earth more than 5-thousand times while conducting hundreds of experiments. Now he's taking a 24-hour trip back to Houston through Norway, then Canada before landing at Ellington field. "One year is a long time, you know, I felt like I had been up there my whole life you know after about the first six months."
Kelly's extraterrestrial experience was vital for planning an even longer mission to Mars. It's a round trip that could take 2 and a half years. NASA hopes to go to the Red Planet by 2035. "Even though I look forward to coming home and there's things that I miss I felt like if it was for the right reason I clearly could've stayed however long it took," said Kelly.
Measuring the effects of long-term weightlessness on an astronauts body and mind as well as the effects of radiation is invaluable. "We are encouraged on how strong he looked when he came back," said NASA flight surgeon Blake Chamberlain, who worked on Kelly's historic mission. "They'll be doing a bunch of measurements on him bone density muscle strength and those kind of things and then try to extrapolate that to the mission parameters for Mars," said Chamberlain.
Scientists are also studying the differences between Kelly and his identical twin brother, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, who was back here on Earth. "By going to Mars one day it'll make things better here on earth so I'm happy to be part of that."
Once he lands at Ellington Field, Kelly will go the Johnson Space Center for four hours of experiments Into the early hours of Thursday morning. Then for the next several weeks he'll undergo eight hours of experiments everyday.