In 1996, Kelly began working at NASA’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston. His first foray into space was as a shuttle pilot on the Discovery in 1999. His next spaceflight, in 2007, saw him enter the International Space Station (ISS) for the first time, on a mission that lasted 12 days. On his following foray to the ISS in 2010, he stayed for six months and was the expedition commander.
Kelly’s next stay on the space station, from March 2015 to March 2016, was to be a record breaker. Not only would it make him the first American to spend a year in space, but he also broke the record for most cumulative days in space for an American, 520 days in total. “Records are meant to be broken,” a NASA press release reports Kelly as saying. “I am looking forward to when these records in space are surpassed.”
Accompanying Kelly for his year-long stint on board the ISS was Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko. The main research subjects for their mission were the men themselves. In particular, how their bodies would react under the stress of spending an extended period in space. What they learnt will be invaluable for future space missions to further-flung destinations such as Mars.