NASA's Scott Kelly returns to the United States after spending almost a year on the International Space Station. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
NATURAL ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) NASA astronaut Scott Kelly returned to the United States on Thursday (March 3) 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. "It was a very long trip. When I left here in February, I don't even know what day it was in February, I was 50, now I'm 52 but it feels great. It's great to be back in Texas in U.S., on U.S. soil. It's just an unbelievable feeling to be back here on planet Earth, back in our great country and back with all my family and my friends," Scott Kelly told the crowd at Ellington Airport in Houston, Texas. In his nearly year-long stay in space, Kelly, 52, has 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. "There is no greater privilege to serving your country however and wherever you might do it. This mission is the latest achievement in our country's space program but it's not the last. There will be more. It's in our DNA of our country to explore and we must never stop doing this," Kelly said. Kelly and his identical twin brother Mark, a former NASA astronaut, are also participating in genetic studies, the first to assess if genetic changes occur during long spaceflights. Kelly's 340-day mission eclipses the previous U.S. record-long spaceflight of 215 days, set by former astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria aboard the space station in 2007. The world's longest missions were carried out by four Soviet-era cosmonauts aboard the now-defunct Mir space station, including a flight from January 1994 to March 1995, spanning nearly 438 days by record holder Valeri Polyakov, a physician. The International Space Station, a joint project of the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada, followed Mir and has been permanently staffed by rotating crews since 2000. About the size of a five-bedroom house, the $100-billion station flies about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.