After nearly a year in space, Scott Kelly craves human contact

After nearly a year in space, U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly craves the simple pleasures of human contact, a shower, and a splash in a swimming pool.

See Full Article

Kelly and his Russian counterpart Mikhail Kornienko are scheduled to plunge back to Earth aboard a Soyuz spacecraft next week -- speeding through the atmosphere at a pace of 17,500 miles per hour -- before landing in Kazakhstan early on March 2.

Speaking to reporters this week via video link for a final time as he floated, microphone in hand, inside the International Space Station, the veteran astronaut admitted to mixed feelings about returning home.

"Leaving this amazing facility is going to be tough because I will probably never see it again," said Kelly, 52, who has flown to space four times in his career.

"But I certainly look forward to going back to Earth," he added from the sprawling spacecraft which circles about 250 miles above the Earth.

"There is a lot of great stuff down there that I miss."

A New Jersey native and former Navy pilot, Kelly is also the father of two and the twin brother of astronaut Mark Kelly.

He did not say specifically who he misses most, but said he looks forward to reuniting with his loved ones.

"I think the hardest part is being isolated in a physical sense from people on the ground that are important to you," he said, listing his priorities as "human contact, the people you love on Earth, your family, your friends."

When he gets back, he plans to head to Johnson Space Center in Houston for a battery of medical tests.

"And then I am going to go home and jump in my pool."

Physical damage

Kelly said he expects to find he has lost bone density after a year in microgravity, and has noticed some changes in his vision similar to what he experienced the last time he was in space, a journey that lasted 159 days.

He and his twin brother are taking part in a battery of tests so that NASA can study the effects of long-term spaceflight on the body and mind, including CAT scans, MRIs, measurements of bone density, and changes to muscles and blood vessels, including the heart.

Scientists are also looking to compare any genetic changes from radiation in the two men.

Kelly described radiation's long-term effects as "the biggest unknown."

"Of all the concerns, that is my biggest," he added.

Doctors are not sure if spending so long in space could eventually lead to cancer.

"It would always be hard to know," said Barry Rosenstein, professor of radiation oncology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.

Rosenstein described the amount of radiation Kelly has received as "relatively low," enough to raise his lifetime cancer risk in "the ballpark of a few per cent."

But even if he does develop cancer years from now, it would be difficult to pin down the root cause, since there are no molecular tests to identify a cancer that is caused by radiation versus cancer that is caused be any other reason, Rosenstein told AFP.

NASA has said the Kelly-Kornienko mission will help the US space agency prepare for a longer journey to deep space, including Mars, during which the radiation load would be far higher.

A changed perspective

Despite yearning for a shower, after bathing with towelettes and using a toilet equipped with a suction tube for almost a year, Kelly managed to have some fun in space.

He grew a garden of zinnias, snacked on the first space lettuce, snapped vivid pictures of the Earth and floated around in a gorilla suit to raise schoolkids' interest in space.

He will return to Earth holding the record of the longest time spent in space by an American. In all, he will have lived 520 days of his life in space.

Russian Valeri Polyakov holds the all-time record for longest single space mission with nearly 438 days at the Mir Space Station in 1994 and 1995.

And Russian Genny Padalka -- who flew to space with Kelly and Kornienko last year -- has spent a total of 878 days in space.

Kelly said things like records, souvenirs and mementos from space are not that important to him.

But what has changed is his perspective on the Earth.

"You definitely have a heightened sense of empathy and also you notice the effect of our presence on the planet," he said, mentioning the heavy pollution visible near the Himalayas.

"It makes you somewhat -- if you weren't already -- an environmentalist."



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • World pollution deadlier than wars, disasters, hunger: study

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NEW DELHI -- Environmental pollution -- from filthy air to contaminated water -- is killing more people every year than all war and violence in the world. More than smoking, hunger or natural disasters. More than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. Source
  • Manipulating master? Dogs use facial expressions to convey emotions: study

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Your dog may be a master manipulator, deliberately making puppy eyes to pull at your heart strings, according to a study Thursday into a ploy many mutt owners have long suspected. The research suggests that dogs may be in control of their facial expressions, using them to communicate, researchers reported in the journal Scientific Reports. Source
  • Robot wars: U.S. smashes Japan in giant days-long duel

    Tech & Science CTV News
    In scenes reminiscent of films like "Transformers", a giant U.S. robot fighting machine swung a "chainsaw sword" to chop a Japanese opponent into submission in a battle watched by tens of thousands online. The two massive and heavily armed machines went claw-to-claw at an abandoned steel mill in Japan, firing cannons and smashing each other in a days-long duel. Source
  • Huge cave found on moon, could house astronauts: Japan scientists

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Scientists at Japan's space agency have discovered a huge moon cave that could one day house a base that would shelter astronauts from dangerous radiation and wild temperature swings, officials said Thursday. Data taken from Japan's SELENE lunar orbiter has confirmed the existence of the 50 kilometre (31 miles) long and 100 metre wide cavern that is believed to be lava tube created by volcanic activity about 3.5 billion years ago. Source
  • Changes in fish management could alter ocean ecosystem: scientists

    Tech & Science CTV News
    PORTLAND, Maine -- Changes in the way some small fish are managed could have major implications for the ocean ecosystem and marine industries on the East Coast, according to conservationists, fishing groups and scientists. Interstate regulators are considering altering the way they manage menhaden to better account for its role as one of the most important fish in the sea. Source
  • Self-taught, 'superhuman' AI now even smarter: makers

    Tech & Science CTV News
    The computer that stunned humanity by beating the best mortal players at a strategy board game requiring "intuition" has become even smarter, its makers said Wednesday. Even more startling, the updated version of AlphaGo is entirely self-taught -- a major step towards the rise of machines that achieve superhuman abilities "with no human input", they reported in the science journal Nature. Source
  • Disabled Chinese space lab likely to crash to Earth in coming months

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A defunct, yacht-sized Chinese space lab is expected to fall out of orbit and crash to Earth in the coming months. China launched the eight-tonne Tiangong-1 satellite in 2011. Tiangong means "Heavenly Palace" in Chinese. The satellite, which is 12 metres long and 3.3 metres in diameter, was designed to test technology for a future space station. Source
  • Workers at iPhone supplier in China protest unpaid bonuses

    Tech & Science CTV News
    SHANGHAI -- Hundreds of workers streamed through dark streets, blocking an entrance to an Apple iPhone supplier's factory in eastern China to protest unpaid bonuses and factory reassignments, two witnesses and China Labor Watch, a New York based non-profit group, said Thursday. Source
  • Phoenix tracks: Edmonton palaeontologist retraces the stone footsteps of dinosaurs

    Tech & Science CBC News
    An Edmonton paleontologist is relying on ancient folklore to retrace the stone footprints of giant dinosaurs. Scott Persons with the University of Alberta is helping Lida Xing of the China University of Geosciences explore old and contemporary folklore to uncover possible sites where dinosaur footprints might be found. Source
  • Facebook launches 'election integrity initiative' to fight hacking and fake news

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Amid concerns about online threats to the democratic process, Facebook Canada is launching an "election integrity initiative" in advance of the next Canadian federal election. The last American election was disrupted by the release of hacked emails from Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. Source