NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, a West Orange native, and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko completed their 340-day mission aboard the International Space Station after the Soyuz spacecraft carrying them left the orbiting lab and landed in Kazakhstan on Tuesday.
No pictures have emerged as of publication of this report of the two, who will be studied for their physical and mental changes after their lengthy space flight. The mission was designed to see how the human body can cope with long periods in space, in preparation for possible missions to Mars. Those missions would be years long round trip.
Kelly, who was raised and schooled in West Orange, is the first American to spend more than 11 months in the weightlessness of space. Scientists will be comparing his body and mental state to that of his twin brother, Mark Kelly, who was on Earth during the same period.
Kelly also holds the American record of the longest combined amount of time in space at 520 days over four missions.
Scientists will not only be looking at muscle and body changes, but also changes in Kelly’s immune system after nearly a year in weightlessness and a diet of space food.
Another focus will be the effects of weightlessness on Kelly’s eyesight, which he has already said has changed in his mission time.
After nearly a year together, Kelly and Kornienko will part company and return to distant destinations from one another: Kelly will be going to Houston for evaluation and testing, and Kornienko to a town outside Moscow.
After all the tests are over, Kelly has made it clear one of one of the first things he wants to do is eat at a table and, when back home, to jump in his pool.