Scott Kelly is sore.
Less than 72 hours after returning to Earth, his body was still adjusting to feeling the full force of Earth’s gravity for the first time in 340 days. A veteran astronaut, Kelly has experienced the shift back from zero-gravity before. But this time does feel different, he said.
“My level of muscle soreness and fatigue is a lot higher than it was last time,” Kelly said during a Friday news conference at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. It’s all the muscles, Kelly said, to the point that he had trouble shooting hoops.
“I didn’t get any of them in the net,” he said. “It’s not like I’m a good basketball player generally.”
Friday was the first time Kelly spoke publicly since completing his record-setting mission aboard the International Space Station. The yearlong mission was designed for NASA to study how the human body reacts to long-term space flight. That information will be used to prepare future astronauts for missions like a flight to Mars.
“I also have an issue with my skin,” Kelly said. “Because I haven’t touched anything in so long, it’s very, very sensitive. It’s almost like a burning feeling wherever I sit or lie or walk.
“I’m actually not even wearing these shoes all the time,” he said, pointing to his feet. “I’m just wearing them for you guys.”
Kelly now holds the United States records for both consecutive days in space and total time in space.
Despite his soreness, he said that if his flight had taken him to another planet, he would have been able to handle it.
“I could have gone longer on this flight if there was good reason,” Kelly said. “I think, going to Mars, if it takes two years, that’s doable.”
Friday’s news conference was another check on Kelly’s whirlwind schedule since landing in Kazakhstan in a Russian Soyuz re-entry capsule late Tuesday evening. After being checked out by a Russian medical team, Kelly was flown to Norway, where he was checked out again. Then it was on to another plane to Gander, Newfoundland, Canada, and then on to Houston, and his home in League City at about 4 a.m. Thursday.
He took a celebratory leap into his swimming pool when he got back to his house.
“Even though I took a shower in Canada, I hadn’t had running water in 340 days,” he said. “It’s something you really miss.”
Kelly was back at Johnson Space Center by 10 a.m. Thursday, where he underwent more medical tests and physical function tests. On Friday, it was still more of that, including more than two hours of MRI scans at the University of Texas Medical Branch’s Health Specialty Care Center at Victory Lakes.
Somewhere in the hurry there was a first meal. According to NASA, that meal was a salad, although Kelly said he thought the first thing he ate was a banana. Before Friday’s news conference he also engaged in a online question-and-answer session on Reddit, a popular message board. (Social media engagement was a fixture of Kelly’s yearlong mission. During his time in space he took around 1,000 photographs of Earth and posted them to Twitter.)
Now back on Earth, Kelly will spend the next year undergoing tests and physical exams. The results of the scientific experiments he helped conduct might not be published for a year or more.
After that, the future is less clear. Kelly, who is 52 and has flown more than 500 hours in space, is unlikely to participate in another NASA mission. But he didn’t leave out the possibility that he could return to space as a passenger on a commercial spacecraft.
“I’ll never be done with space,” Kelly said. “I’ll always be involved.”