Astronaut Scott Kelly talks about life after orbit

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Scott Kelly says he never would have become an astronaut if he hadn’t stumbled upon the book “The Right Stuff” while in college. “The book,” he says, “changed my life.” A documentary following Kelly’s life after his historic journey in space airs this month on Arizona PBS.

Kelly, an astronaut for NASA, spent an entire year on the International Space Station. The PBS documentary series “A Year in Space” follows him throughout his historic mission as the first American to spend 12 months away from the Earth’s surface.

“A Year in Space” will air Nov. 15 at 7 p.m., followed by “Beyond a Year in Space” at 8 p.m.

Ted Simons: Astronaut Scott Kelly has piloted the space shuttle and spent more than a year aboard the international space station. Tonight Arizona-PBS will air the special "beyond a year in space" which follows Scott Kelly and his twin mark as they undergo testing for NASA’S "study" on twins. Recently Scott Kelly sat down with pbs's Laura Savini to talk about how he became an astronaut.

PKG: Scott Kelly, thanks for joining us on pbs.

PKG: It's my pleasure to be here. Thank you.

PKG: I want to start at the beginning. How does a young man from new jersey, not a great student end up an astronaut and an astronaut of your caliber?

PKG: I was one of those kids growing up, if i was in school today, i would be diagnosed a.d.d. Or a.d.h.d., it was impossible for me to pay attention in school. I spent more time looking out the window, wondering what was going on outside, looking at the clock, trying to will it to run faster than i ever did paying attention. It's one of the biggest regrets of my life that i spent the first 12 years of my education, daydreaming it away.

PKG: What a success story for a child who isn't doing well in school today, to realize there is time to find your focus, which is what happened to you.

PKG: Absolutely. I go to college and I’m struggling, impossible for me to pay attention. One day I happened to be walking across the campus and walked into the bookstore to buy gum or something, and I saw a book, red, white and blue cover and i picked it up and started looking through the book, and was interested enough I used my gum money to buy it. I took it to my dorm room and read about the test pilots that became astronauts.

PKG: This is the book "the right stuff."

PKG: Absolutely, the right stuff by tom wolf. The characters that they had, I felt I had in myself despite the fact that I couldn't pay attention. That was the spark i needed.

PKG: What made you a good pilot astronaut?

PKG: Dealing with the risk and danger, I thought in some cases, the personalities and humor, how they dealt with adversity, I felt I had that. The part I didn't have was I didn't know how to do my homework or study. I decided to be my best to be like these guys, become a navy pilot or astronaut. It got me moving in the right direction.

PKG: You had the support of your twin brother who straightened you out from time to time.

PKG: Absolutely. One case, I think it was critical where he, you know, over the phone, verbally slapped me around and said you have to work harder if you want to do this. Your old habits won't work out for you.

PKG: What was your original reaction when nasa said, all right, Scott, you are going to spend a year in space?

PKG: When we started talking about this, I had recently gotten back from space 159 days. I said I wasn't interested, initially. The previous experience, although incredible is still challenging and hard, but after considering it more and thinking about it, I thought I want to fly in space again. If I fly six months, it will be similar to what I did last time. A year, twice as long, more challenging and eventually, it became more appealing to me. It was really just the challenge of being up there a long time.

PKG: You called this the largest peacetime project. That's interesting to me. You are working with people from all around the world up there in this isolated space. What do you think you accomplished as far as international exchange?

PKG: I think one of the successes of the international space station is the demonstration that you can do complicated, risky things in an environment that is neutral territory with benefits for all nations. I think that's what's great about space. The fact that we built the most complicated vehicle ever with a 15 nation partnership, using different languages, cultures, in some cases technical ways of doing things. It's a demonstration of if you put your mind to it, we can do things we think are impossible. We can go to mars because we did this.

PKG: Why is it important to go to mars?

PKG: By doing stuff that's challenging, it pushes our limits of technology. Stuff that's going to be required to support that kind of journey, though it's expensive, i think it has benefits in our economy. We are naturally explorers. If you look back in history, people that have stopped civilizations that stop exploring cease to exist. Mars is a place, destination, goal, i think is critical to our future.

PKG: I want to talk more about the experience of being in space as long as you were. There were a couple of things that struck me in the book and in the show. You talk about the smell of space. I never thought it would have a smell. Describe it for us.

PKG: I didn't either until the first time i smelled it. It smells to me, and some people have a different impression to them. Some call it a sweet smell. I think it smells like if someone was welding or sparklers on the fourth of July, a burning metal smell. Stepping off the international space station, what is going through your head?

PKG: Don't let me screw this up. I don't want to float away. You are in a difficult space suit. You have to stay tethered to the space station. The most important thing is the tethers. Make sure it's locked. Make sure your tools are tethered. In some cases people have lost things, critical stuff. Not that it's necessarily their fault, but it's critical. First time you open the hatch, first spacewalk ever, i was the guy going out first. You open the hatch and you look down 250-miles and you are going 17,500 miles per hour. That's one of those times you think, there is nothing more important than what i'm doing now, making sure i don't mess anything up.

PKG: When you look back at your year in space, what is it you took away from it that's inspiring and you learned being up there?

PKG: The biggest thing i learned that year and even at nasa, my experience working there, on the ground, supporting different programs, i was absolutely inspired that if we could do this, if we could build a space station, flying around the earth at 17,500 miles per hour, international partnership, 270-degrees in space, a vacuum, this is the hardest thing we have ever done. If we can do this, we can do anything. If we want to go to mars, we can go to mars. If event to cure cancer, we can do that, fix the problems with the environment, challenges we have in this country. I believe if we can dream it, we can do it.

PKG: Thanks so much, scott.

PKG: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me. >>on the next "arizona horizon," and we'll hear about the latest arizona town hall which tackles education funding in arizona. That's on the next "arizona horizon." House speaker j.d. Mesnard talks about the allegations of sexual harrassment at the state capital. That's it for now. I'm ted simons. Thanks for joining us. You have a great evening.

Scott Kelly: Astronaut, NASA

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