US astronaut Scott Kelly held his final press conference from the International Space Station (ISS) on 25 February, telling reporters that the ISS is a "magical" place, but that he'll be glad to get back to Earth. Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko are finishing a 340-day mission before returning to Earth next week. Kelly told reporters that he hopes the legacy of their work will be to enable others to go to Mars.
"I think I will learn a lot about longer duration space flight and how that will take us to Mars someday so I'd like to think that this is a mother of many stepping stones to us landing on Mars sometime in our future," he told reporters gathered at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
During their record-setting mission, Kelly and Kornienko participated in a number of studies to provide new insights into how the human body adjusts to weightlessness, isolation, radiation and the stress of long-duration spaceflight, which will include the journey to Mars. Kelly's twin brother, former Nasa astronaut Mark Kelly, participated in parallel twin studies on Earth, giving scientists a special ability to compare the effects on the body and mind in space.
While Kelly said the station is a "magical" place, he said conditions are harsh, comparing it to being "in the woods camping for a year" because of the lack of running water and cramped living conditions.
"The space station here is a magical place. It's an incredible science facility we have. It's a privilege to fly here and it's something that I hope more people will have the opportunity to do in the future. And I you know I think we will. And it's just a matter of time... but it is a harsh environment, for instance having no running water. It's kind of like a I've been in the woods camping for a year."
After landing, Kelly will hold the record among US astronauts for cumulative time in space, with 520 days. However, the record for time spent continuously in space by any human is held by Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov who spent more than 14 months aboard the Mir space station. Kelly said those on board the ISS probably had an easier time than Polyakov did.
"You know we have better connectivity with people on the ground, and you know I think the environment is a little bit more comfortable. So I really respect what he did, back then," he told reporters, before ending the press conference with a somersault in the near-weightless environment of the ISS.