In Tampa stop, year-in-space astronaut shares his ups and downs

- Record-setting astronaut Scott Kelly says the view from space is “indescribable” but he’ll do his best to put it into words during his stop at the Tampa Theatre tonight.

Kelly has written a book about his life and his career, which includes decades in the Navy before joining NASA.  He’s best known for two things: Having a twin brother who’s also an astronaut, and for his nearly year-long mission aboard the space station.

His book, ‘Endurance,’ covers those things, but also his sometimes less-certain path to success.

“It’s also a story about a kid who couldn’t do his homework, probably had ADD or ADHD,” he told FOX 13’s Linda Hurtado.  “At 18 and struggling in college, I was inspired by a book.”

Kelly, now retired from NASA at age 53, is a veteran of four space missions.  He says one of the most common questions he still gets is, “What is it like to be in space?”

“It’s incredible, it’s indescribable,” he offered.  “I flew in space a few years before my twin brother Mark and, despite him having pretty much the same background I did and me trying to explain to him what the launch of the space shuttle was like, first thing he said to me when he got back and got out of the space shuttle was, ‘I had no idea what that was going to be like!’

“You definitely realize you are on the pointy end of seven-million pounds of thrust going straight out of the atmosphere,” he continued.

Kelly says one of the most memorable moments for him was the first time he saw earth during a spacewalk.  But he said he was also struck by how obvious the pollution was, too.

“You also see how thin and fragile the atmosphere looks,” he explained.

Kelly also confessed that there were a few times when he thought he saw something truly out of this world – but only for a moment.

“Occasionally you do, but then you realize it was just a satellite or a planet passing behind the atmosphere,” he continued.  “So there are atmospheric effects that affect how things look and how they’re behaving against the background of stars.  So you’re like, ‘Hey that might be a UFO!’ Then you’re like, ‘Darn it, it’s not!’”

It’s that type of honesty that he promises in his book, ‘Endurance.’  In addition to the inspiring stories of success, he also talks about the more routine aspects of life in space and how tough it was adapting to life back on Earth after his record-setting mission.

Those are lessons that NASA and humanity in general will need to learn in order to get to Mars – if we get to Mars.

“We will,” Kelly said matter-of-factly when asked.  “I don’t know when.  But I hope it’s in my lifetime.”

And would he be willing to go?

“As long as I can come back.”

Scott Kelly is speaking at the Tampa Theatre tonight at 7:30 p.m. Visit the theater's website for more information.

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