Growing up in West Orange, Mark Kelly always wanted to become an astronaut. In high school, he even had dreams of donning a NASA spacesuit, launching into the cosmos and becoming the first person to walk on Mars. But there is a wide gap between dreams and reality, and Kelly doubted that his goal of one day venturing into space would ever be achieved.
I was excited to be back in Houston last weekend to help support the Space Center Houston and raise funds for new educational exhibits at its shuttle complex. I even got to meet the legendary Chuck Norris and to see my friend Gene Cernan, the commander of Apollo 17 – and the last man to walk on the Moon.
When serendipity hands scientists the perfect experiment, they don’t hesitate to jump on it. That’s surely the case with NASA’s improbable study of Scott Kelly, who has just completed the first month of a one-year stay aboard the International Space Station, and his identical twin brother Mark, who will spend the same year on Earth.
Identical twin astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly reunited Wednesday on TODAY and proved that brotherly ribbing doesn’t stop when one of them is in space.
Scott and Mark, 50, are participating in a unique NASA study of the impact of long-term space missions on the human body. But on Wednesday, they were just like any two brothers on Earth as Mark spoke with Scott about the fact that he will be three extra milliseconds older than Scott, who is a month into a planned year mission aboard the International Space Station, once he returns from space.
U.S. Navy Captain and former astronautMark Kelly knows what it’s like to be bolted to the seat of a spaceship and rocketed into orbit by 7 million pounds of thrust. He knows, too, what it’s like to lead flight missions through anti-aircraft fire in the skies over Iraq.
But even Kelly doubted his own personal strength when his wife, former U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona), was gunned down by a mentally ill young man while talking to constituents outside a Safeway supermarket in her native Tucson, Ariz.
Critically injured in the 2011 incident, Giffords underwent numerous surgeries and years of rehabilitation but continued to fight courageously, Kelly told a standing-room-only audience at Brooks Rehabilitation in Jacksonville on Saturday.
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly’s one-year stay on the International Space Station will be a one-of-a-kind science experiment studying the effects of long-duration spaceflight, made possible by history’s only set of two-of-a-kind spacefliers.
The mere fact that Kelly will be in space for roughly a year (actually, 342 days), starting Friday, is not a record-setter. Four Russian cosmonauts spent longer stints on the Mir space station. But this marks the first time that an American astronaut has done it, and the first time that scientists will compare a space traveler’s health with that of an identical twin on Earth over the course of a year.
Scott Kelly’s twin, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, has volunteered to be the earthly guinea pig.
“I believe in science,” said Mark Kelly, who is a space and aviation analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. “I’m very grateful for the opportunities that the U.S. government has given me, NASA in particular, so I’m glad to do it.”