U.S. Space-Endurance Champ Says He Could Do Another Year

n this image from video made available by NASA, astronaut Scott Kelly speaks to reporters on Earth during a news conference held on the International Space Station on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016. After nearly a year in space, Kelly is just a few days away from returning to Earth. He’ll leave Tuesday on a Russian Soyuz capsule back to the planet to end NASA’s longest space flight ever. (NASA via AP)

n this image from video made available by NASA, astronaut Scott Kelly speaks to reporters on Earth during a news conference held on the International Space Station on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016. After nearly a year in space, Kelly is just a few days away from returning to Earth. He’ll leave Tuesday on a Russian Soyuz capsule back to the planet to end NASA’s longest space flight ever. (NASA via AP)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — After nearly a year in orbit, America's space-endurance champ, Scott Kelly, is just a few days away from returning to Earth — and he can't wait.

Kelly held his final news conference from the International Space Station on Thursday. He told reporters that space is a "harsh environment," and you never feel perfectly normal. From a hygiene perspective, he said, he feels as if he has been camping in the woods for a year. From a physical point of view, though, he feels "pretty good."

The toughest part? Being isolated from loved ones, a situation that will pose even more of a challenge for astronauts sent to Mars.

Despite all this, Kelly said he could go another 100 days or even another year "if I had to."

By the time he comes home, he will have spent 340 consecutive days aloft, a U.S. record. The world record is 438 days, set by a Russian cosmonaut in the 1990s. Even that will pale in comparison to a Mars expedition, expected to last two to three years round trip.

Scientists hope to learn much from Kelly's mission to pave the way to Mars in another two decades; they also will collect data from his Russian roommate for the year, Mikhail Kornienko.

Along with Kornienko, Kelly will check out of the space station Tuesday, riding a Russian capsule back to the planet to end NASA's longest space flight. They will land in Kazakhstan. Then Kelly will be hustled home to Houston.

The 52-year-old astronaut said he can't wait to jump in his pool and dine at a real table with friends and family.

Kelly rocketed away last March on a research-packed mission, leaving behind two daughters and his girlfriend. He lightened things up recently by donning a gorilla suit — a gag gift from his identical twin, retired astronaut Mark Kelly — and cavorting through the station.

The brothers hope to go fishing in Alaska once things settle down.

By MARCIA DUNN - Feb. 25, 2016 1:23 PM EST AP

___

Online:

NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/content/one-year-crew

 
 

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