(Scott Kelly – Twitter @scottcdrkelly)
Asstronaut Scott Kelly returned to earth this week after spending a year at the command of the International Space Station.
Kelly spent 340 consecutive days in space, a record for a NASA astronaut. The previous record was held by Michael Lopez-Alegria, who spent 215 days in space during a trip to the space station in 2006 and 2007.
With this trip and three earlier missions, Kely has spent a total of 520 days in orbit.
Kelly is an American hero and deserves to be celebrated.
The way to do that is by giving him a ticker-tape parade up the Canyon of Heroes.
The last parade down Broadway was for the U.S. Women’s soccer team winning the World Cup last summer. Other parades in the past 15 years have been for Yankees World Series champions and Giants Super Bowl championship teams.
Astronauts have been honored with ticker-tape parades before, including four for missions to the moon: in 1969, Frank Borman, James A. Lovell, and William A. Anders for Apollo 8 on January 10, and Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins for Apollo 11 on August 13, 1969; in 1971, Alan Shepard, Edgar Mitchell, and Stuart Roosa for the Apollo 14 mission on March 8, and later that year, on August 24, David Scott, James Irwin, and Alfred Worden for the Apollo 15 mission.
The last astronaut to receive the honor was John Glenn and the astronauts of the Space Shuttle Discovery mission STS-95 in 1998. Glenn also marched down the Canyon of Heroes after the Mercury-Atlas 6 mission in 1962.
The parades through the Canyon of Heroes traditionally has been to honor and celebrate heroic, extraordinary acts.
The fact that there has not been one for anything but sports championships in nearly 18 years is shameful.
There probably should be a parade for the veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as there was for the Gulf War in 1991.
On a larger point, honoring Kelly in this way is a counterweight to the ugly side of the presidential race seen every day.
NASA has always been a point of pride for Americans, and this is one of their greatest achievements in years.
The year Kelly spent at the International Space Station, along with Mikhail Kornienko of Russia, is intended to give scientists a better understanding of what health issues astronauts might encounter during a mission to Mars, which lasts between six to eight months.
Kelly said at a NASA press conference on Thursday, February 25, “We’ll learn a lot about longer-duration spaceflight. I’d like to think this is another of many stepping-stones in landing on Mars sometime in our future.”
Kelly turned over command of the International Space Station to Timothy Kropa.
On what he saw from space, Kelly said, “The more I look at Earth, at certain parts of Earth, the more I feel more of an environmentalist. There are definitely areas where the earth is covered with pollution almost all the time, and it’s not good for any of us.”
The distance Kelly traveled in his mission is an astonishing 143,846,525 miles. This is roughly the distance of a one-way trip to Mars. On the space station, Kelly was never more than 250 miles above Earth.
Kelly worked on more than 400 experiments aboard the space station.
NASA will be studying Kelly to learn more about the effect of long-term weightlessness. It will compare data from this mission and an earlier six-month stay at the space station, and with data from his twin brother, Mark Kelly, also an astronaut.
Scott and Mark Kelly are the only brothers to have ever traveled in space. Mark is in the news a lot, as he is married to former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, an advocate for gun control and an active campaigner for Hillary Clinton.
Scott Kelly’s first spaceflight was as pilot of Space Shuttle Discovery during STS-103 in December 1999, which was the third servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope, and lasted for just under eight days. The second spaceflight he made was as mission commander of STS-118, a 12-day Space Shuttle mission to the International Space Station in August 2007.
Kelly became a long-duration crewmember of the International Space Station on October 9, 2010, after arriving on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. He arrived there during Expedition 25, and served as a flight engineer. He took over command of the station on November 25, 2010, at the start of Expedition 26 which began officially when the spacecraft Soyuz TMA-19 undocked, carrying the previous commander of the station, Douglas H. Wheelock.
Kelly also served 25 years in the United States Navy, from 1987 to 2012, and he attained the rank of Captain.