Daily Video

March 3, 2016

Astronaut Scott Kelly returns to Earth after year in space

Essential question

How will current research into space travel impact future exploration?

People around the world held their breath Tuesday night as American astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko returned to Earth after a 340 day mission in space.

Kelly and Kornienko spent nearly a year aboard the International Space Station in order to better understand the effects of such an environment on the human body. They descended to Earth in the Soyuz capsule, landing safely in Kazakhstan.

Kelly’s stay aboard the ISS was the longest amount of time any American has spent in space. During the course of the trip, he traveled 143 million miles and orbited the Earth more than 5,400 times.

“I believe in exploration, and I will miss being on the front lines of that endeavor,” Kelly said.

Kelly has an identical twin, former astronaut Mark Kelly, who provides a unique way to study how space changes the body and mind. The twins were the same height a year ago, but now Scott is two inches taller. That change was expected and temporary: Earth’s gravity will soon pull Scott’s spine vertebrae back together.

Despite being back on Earth, Kelly’s mission will continue as NASA monitors him over the next year to see how he readjusts to life on Earth. NASA plans to send astronauts on the two-and-a-half year journey to Mars within two decades and hope Kelly’s experience will allow them to better understand the long-term effects of space travel.

Key terms

International Space Station — a habitable artificial satellite orbiting the Earth and used as a research facility and science lab by a number of nations

NASA — the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the U.S. government agency responsible for the civilian space program as well as aeronautics and aerospace research

Warm up questions (before watching the video)
  1. Who is Scott Kelly?
  2. How long was Kelly in space?
  3. What do you think it would be like to live in space for a year?
  4. Would you ever take a trip to outer space?
Critical thinking questions (after watching the video)
  1. Do you consider Scott Kelly and other astronauts explorers? Why or why not?
  2. What do you think scientists will be able to learn about the long-term effects of space on the human mind and body from Kelly?
  3. What do you think Kelly meant when he said he has a “heightened sense of empathy” for Earth and the environment?
  4. Do you think space exploration is worth the cost given the number of problems here on Earth? Explain.
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