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8 Things We Learned from Scott Kelly’s Year in Space
published during a new moon.
03/08/2016
Scott Kelly

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly inside the cupola of the International Space Station, a special module that provides a 360-degree viewing of the Earth and the station. Kelly will return to Earth on March 1, marking completion of a 340-day mission in space. Credits: NASA

Baby-soft feet and bodily fluid complications aren’t the only side effects of spending nearly a year in space. Aside from dipping into a pool, astronaut Scott Kelly spent his first days back on the planet letting his body get the hang of the whole gravity thing again.

 

 

 

 

The transition isn’t easy, but with the help of scientists and doctors, Kelly is starting to feel like his old Earthly self again. Though NASA predicted a few changes, a few members of the Johnson Space Center team took to Reddit to answer questions about his widely anticipated return. Here are some of the new things we learned:

1. Getting back your “Earth legs” only takes a few days.

Astronauts may feel a little off-kilter, especially after all the bodily fluid shifts to the head, so the crew is typically carried after they land.

2. Though back pain is pretty common.

That’s most likely do to changes in the crew’s spinal column, specifically their discs, which cushion vertebrae in our spines. NASA is still digging into what exactly happens during prolonged space flight.

3. Scott Kelly won’t remain as tall as he became in space.

Though a lack of gravity does make us a little taller, the recovery back to his usual height is swift.

4. But he is ever-so-slightly younger than all of us.

In case you missed it, the recent discovery of gravitational waves has changed how see the universe. Not only have the waves confirmed the existence of black holes, they proved Albert Einstein was right all along. Using Einstein’s theory of relativity, Kelly aged a fraction of a second less than those of us on Earth.

5. Pizza is a popular first meal request.

Green apples upon landing are a Russian tradition, and landing in the desert makes potable items a better option. But the requests for pizza come soon after.

6. The team carried out more than 450 experiments.

From stem cells to dark matter, Kelly and his crew pulled off hundreds of experiments for a range of fields.

7. Drinking recycled urine isn’t as bad as it sounds.

To avoid lugging gallons of water, technology aboard the International Space Station (ISS) is so efficient, it reclaims about 93% of the astronauts’ urine into water. And while that feature is crucial for potentially longer missions, we still can’t help but wonder what it tastes like. The verdict: It’s perfectly fine (but probably not a top request to go along with the pizza).

Here’s astronaut Kjell Lindgren answering that very question:

8. The mission may be over, but the science continues.

To better understand how to prep our bodies for a longer trek — say, to Mars — researchers will keep tabs on Kelly for months. Some blood samples are still aboard the ISS and won’t even be available till later this year.

Though NASA has nearly 15 years of data about space effects, this is the first time they’ll be able to reap the science of a one-year mission. Even more groundbreaking: Kelly has an identical twin brother, Mark, who used to be an astronaut. The two are part of a bigger twins study, a coveted form of research because of its of near-identical comparison capabilities.