NEW YORK – It was a one-year mission that is coming to an end Tuesday for NASA astronaut Scott Kelly. A mission that was chock full of space food, liquid ping-pong and a classic gorilla bit.
Outside of the antics and stunning photographs he captured in orbit, Kelly was part of a bigger experiment for NASA. His historic 340-day mission – the longest time for any American in space – will help them determine how space affects health.
Kelly's twin brother Mark, who is also an astronaut, remained on Earth and will be the control to compare Kelly's physical changes to.
The journey also will teach scientists how effective new technology works to allow astronauts to grow crops in zero gravity.
NASA hopes that his experiences will prepare the space agency for long-term missions to places like Mars and beyond.
“That’s what we want to do, we want to send people off the planet even further,” Mike Massimino told PIX11 News.
Massimino knows a few things about space travel – he is a former astronaut and current Senior Adviser of space programs at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum – who’s traveled to space on two missions.
“Your balance is off and so is your judgment as far as things go, driving a car – you’re not supposed to drive a car for a few days,” Massimino said, recalling how he had to re-adjust when gravity kicked in when he returned to Earth.
“Also your spine elongates when you’re in space, so you grow about an inch or an inch and a half when you’re in space and when you come back you lose all that. As it settles back in so you have to be careful.”
Massimino who has been in communication with Kelly via email, says the astronaut has been keeping tabs on all the headlines, watching CNN on a daily basis.
There is one thing Kelly apparently misses.
“I’ve talked to him about it, he says you miss the weather and that, I kind of understand,” he said. “In space there is no wind, there’s no weather, there’s no atmosphere so we don’t get any of that.”
Kelly his seven-hour long trek back to Earth Tuesday afternoon.
His spacecraft is scheduled to touch down in Kazakhstan at about 11:27 PM EST.
To watch a live stream, click here.