Year-long spaceman embraces fresh air

The Associated Press

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.—Ahh, there’s nothing like a blast of fresh, frigid air to welcome you back to the planet after nearly a year cooped up in space.
That’s the word from astronaut Scott Kelly, NASA’s space-endurance champ who returned to bitterly-cold Kazakhstan yesterday, along with his roommate for the past year, Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko.
In a NASA interview before heading home to Houston, Kelly said it was “amazing” to feel the cold air when the hatch of his Soyuz capsule popped open after touchdown.
“I don’t mean to say it’s not fresh on the space station,” he noted. “But there’s nothing like new cold air coming into the capsule.”
Both Kelly, 52, and Kornienko, 55, yearned for nature throughout their 340-day mission at the International Space Station—a dry run by NASA for eventual trips to Mars.
“Just like Scott, I wanted to see Earth and I wanted to smell that fresh air,” said Kornienko.
“This is an unforgettable feeling.”
It was the longest an American ever lived in space, although nothing new for the Russians.
The world record is 438 days—set back in the mid-1990s at the former Mir space station.
Even before that, a pair of Soviet cosmonauts had racked up a full one-year spaceflight.
“Congratulations on your record,” former cosmonaut and Kazak space agency chief Talgat Musabayev said at a welcoming ceremony.
He couldn’t resist: “Of course, it was already done 28 years ago.”
The latest one-year space subjects quickly parted company—Kelly flying back to Houston and Kornienko to Star City, Russia (near Moscow).
Kelly acknowledged it was bittersweet leaving the space station that was his home since last March, currently staffed by three men until the arrival of three more in two weeks.
“I’d been there a long time so I looked forward to leaving,” he remarked.
“But at the same time, it’s a magnificent place and I’m going to miss it.”
Neither will be saying goodbye to medical tests anytime soon.
Minutes after emerging from their capsule, they were whisked in chairs to a medical tent, where they did their best to stand, walk, jump, and navigate obstacles—everything an astronaut might need to do immediately upon arriving at Mars.