NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and his Russian counterpart Mikhail Kornienko returned to Earth on Tuesday, March 1st, after a record 340-day mission aboard the International Space Station. They landed in barren Kazakhstan at 11:26 p.m. EST. During the expedition, Kelly and Kornienko traveled a total of 144 million miles through space, circled the world 5,440 times and experienced 10,880 orbital sunrises and sunsets, abcnews reports.
Kelly seemed joyful as he emerged from the capsule. He was seen pumping his fist and then giving a thumbs-up. He also smiled and talked to the doctors as photographers surrounded him in the freezing cold.
During the record one-year mission, NASA reports that “the station crew conducted almost 400 investigations to advance NASA’s mission and benefit all of humanity. Kelly and Kornienko specifically participated in a number of studies to inform NASA’s Journey to Mars, including research into how the human body adjusts to weightlessness, isolation, radiation and the stress of long-duration spaceflight”.
More than that, the crew also reportedly “took advantage of the unique vantage point of the space station, with an orbital path that covers more than 90 percent of Earth’s population, to monitor and capture images of our planet. They also welcomed the arrival of a new instrument to study the signature of dark matter and conducted technology demonstrations.”
Scientists are hoping for more one-year subjects as NASA prepares for human expeditions to Mars in the coming decades. Radiation will be an important challenge, along with the body and mind’s durability on what it is expected to be a two and a half years journey.