NASA astronaut Scott Kelly says that even though he looks forward to going home, he could have stayed longer on the International Space Station ''for the right reason.'' Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko returned to Earth on Wednesday (March 2) after nearly a year on the International Space Station, the longest U.S. space mission on record, intended to pave the way for human travel to Mars. "Leaving the space station was bittersweet," said Kelly. A Soyuz capsule carrying Kelly, Kornienko and Sergey Volkov, another Russian cosmonaut, made a parachute landing on the steppe near the Kazakh city of Zhezkazgan at 10:26 a.m. (0426 GMT), about 3-1/2 hours after departing the station. Kelly and Kornienko have been aboard the space station for 340 days, about twice as long as previous crews. Their flight sets a record for the space station and for the longest U.S. space mission. Kelly said "It felt like I have been up there my whole life, you know, about after the first six months" but added he could have stayed longer if necessary. "I'm definitely encouraged on our ability to go even longer," said Kelly. "Even though I look forward to coming home and there's things that I miss, I felt like if it were for the right reason I clearly could have stayed, you know, however long it took." In their nearly year-long stay in space, Kelly, 52, and Kornienko, 55, have been the subjects of dozens of medical experiments and science studies trying to learn more about how the human body adjusts to weightlessness and the high-radiation environment of space. The research aims to help the U.S. space agency and its partners develop plans for eventual human missions to Mars that will last at least two years.