Commander Scott Kelly has spent the last year in space, filling the world’s Instagram, Twitter and Facebook feeds with amazing images and videos – and also conducting some really important scientific research for NASA.
The American astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut, Mikhail Kornienko, are set to return from a year-long mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS) on Tuesday.
After 340 days in space, Kelly has set a record for most consecutive days in space for an American astronaut.
While aboard the ISS, Kelly has been updating his Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram pages, and even conducted NASA’s first Reddit AMA from space.
His updates have provided the public with many glimpses into a life lived in space, but the main purpose of Kelly’s mission is to study the effect on the body of long periods in space.
NASA will use data from the impact on Kelly’s body to determine health risks associated with future long-term exploration of space, such as the loss of bone or muscle density.
“During their year-long mission on the station, Kelly and Kornienko gathered valuable biomedical data on the long duration effects of weightlessness on the human body that will be used to formulate a human mission to Mars,” according to NASA.
NASA also has had a unique opportunity in studying Kelly, as he has an identical twin, retired astronaut Mark Kelly. Researchers have been studying Mark Kelly on the ground to compare the differences between the men as one lives in space and the other on Earth.
In a NASA video posted on Monday, Kelly passed the reins of the ISS over to the new commander, Tim Kopra, on the ISS. He noted how important teamwork is to conducting such a mission and thanked everyone on the ground who helped with the program.