Scott Kelly: A Year In Space

Last Updated by Chip Chandler - Digital Content Producer on

For 340 days, U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly has floated 250 miles above us, part of a vital international mission that could help take us where no human has gone before.

On Tuesday, he landed safely back on Earth after spending more than a year on the International Space Station. For the next year, he’ll still be the subject of numerous tests, all with the ultimate goal of helping launch manned expeditions to Mars – and someday, maybe even beyond.

Kelly’s journey will be chronicled in a two-part PBS special, “A Year in Space,” a co-production with Time, that debuts at 7 p.m. today. The second part will air in 2017.

“Scott Kelly’s one-year mission aboard the International Space Station has helped to advance deep space exploration and America’s Journey to Mars,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “Scott has become the first American astronaut to spend a year in space, and in so doing, helped us take one giant leap toward putting boots on Mars.”

Kelly has now spent 520 total days in outer space, more than any other American.

“I’ve been doing risky things since I was a little kid,” Kelly says in the special. “I guess it’s part of my genetics. I’m kind of surprised I made it this far, actually.”

The special offers insight – straight from the space station – into the daily life of Kelly and Russian counterpart Mikhail Kornienko – their chores, their experiments, the hectic pace of their work. There’s also considerable time spent on the close calls and near-disasters – supply shuttles that exploded, space junk that threatened the space station and more.

The stresses that life in space caused on Kelly’s body were tracked during his stay, and NASA also charted the last year in his identical twin and fellow astronaut Mark’s life, as well.

What NASA learns about how Scott Kelly withstands the physical and psychological difficulties will provide scientists with key data to develop methods of overcoming the challenges of human interplanetary travel.

“The system that’s the most fragile and destructible of all … is the human body,” Jeffrey Kluger, Time editor at large and author of several books about the space program, says in “A Year in Space.”

The whole special is fascinating – from its breathtaking views of space and the Earth, to the insight that Kelly provides (space, apparently, smells like “burning metal”), to the impact his year-long journey had on his family back home.

For more, watch “A Year in Space” tonight on Panhandle PBS at 7 p.m. and visit www.pbs.org/a-year-in-space.