Although it may not always have been apparent to his teachers, as he himself confessed not long ago, former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly has a true passion for science. The retired astronaut is deeply invested in getting “more people to celebrate science” and appreciate all the important ways in which it impacts our daily lives.
Kelly was “astounded to learn” the results of the 3M State of Science Index, which revealed that nearly 40 percent of respondents claimed their everyday lives would still be the same if science didn’t exist.
Therefore, he decided to give science a good rep by hosting an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session on Reddit to discuss “why it’s important that everyone values science and appreciates the impact it has on our lives.”
Kelly’s AMA, scheduled on April 26 at 2 p.m. E.T., had quite a turnout as many were interested to find out more about his experience of living for one year aboard the International Space Station (ISS), as well as NASA’s Twin Study in which the Kelly brothers — both NASA astronauts — took part.
“Science impacts our lives every day because nearly everything we have is due to science,” Kelly pointed out at the end of the AMA, in which he talked about living in space, his favorite project that he did for NASA, what he thinks about flat-earthers, and whether or not we are alone in the universe.
Today at 2pm ET I’m hosting a @Reddit AMA about my experience in space, the journey that got me there and how we can get more people to #CelebrateScience. Get ready to ask me anything! #sponsor pic.twitter.com/fX2BvcvUDg— Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) April 26, 2018
Just like other former astronauts have done recently, Kelly shared his views on how spending a long time in space can alter one’s perspective on Earth. Kelly spent one year aboard the ISS, from March 2015 until March 2016, and came back a changed man in more ways than one.
During that time, which set the record for the single longest space mission by an American astronaut, the former astronaut discovered that being away from Earth for so long made him realize “what it provides us and how we’re all in this thing called ‘humanity’ together,” he said on Reddit.
“Looking down at the planet, you don’t see political borders. You see one planet of which we all belong to. You see the fragility of our atmosphere that is everything protecting our beautiful Earth.”
Living In Space For A Year
But life on the ISS is not necessarily a walk in the park, Kelly pointed out. The space station is constantly being hit by debris and, as it turns out, the inside of Earth’s orbiting laboratory smells “like burnt metal,” the retired astronaut revealed.
According to Kelly, one of the most challenging things to accomplish while onboard the ISS is to sleep. This is because sleeping in space is not as relaxing as getting a good night’s rest back on Earth.
First of all, you need window covers to make the space station dark while you sleep. Secondly, “your level of relaxation is the same whether you’re trying to sleep or work,” Kelly said.
Thirdly, it messes up your circadian rhythm, which is why you need to stick to a regular sleep schedule.
“Generally, at the end of the working day, I would dim the lights before turning them off. Now we have lights that can be adjusted for the purpose of helping with the circadian rhythm.”
Also, working aboard the ISS doesn’t leave you with a lot of free time on your hands.
“Part of our job is research, part is taking care of the space station, to live and work up there. It takes time,” Kelly told Redditors.
The upside was that the got to work on a mice project designed to reveal how life in space affects the body and which he found particularly interesting.
Perhaps there’s little mystery as to why, considering he himself was involved in a similar experiment alongside his brother, Mark.
NASA's Twin Study showed that space changes how genes are expressed. https://t.co/FBQtXxvN8h— Astronomy Magazine (@AstronomyMag) February 12, 2018
Commenting on the results of the NASA’s Twin Study, he tried to explain to a Redditor what gene expression means by offering a musical comparison.
“Think of your genes as an orchestra and my brother’s genes as the exact same orchestra. Change in expression is the orchestras playing a slightly different tune,” Kelly said.
But the most uncomfortable thing about being stuck in space for a year was the never-ending sensation of congestion.
“The fluid in your body gets redistributed to your head, so you have this congested feeling for a year,” the former astronaut disclosed.
Mars Colonization, Flat-Earthers, And Aliens
Naturally, the topic of Mars exploration soon came up. According to Kelly, the near future of manned space exploration can be “anything we want it to be.”
“It’s up to us,” he said during his Reddit AMA, noting that he believes “we should make a real, honest effort to go to Mars.”
When asked what his take was on the idea that humanity could establish its first Martian colony within the next 50 years, Kelly replied that he believes the prospect is “very realistic.”
“But, to quote my brother, ‘It’s more about political science than rocket science,'” he said.
Redditors were also curious to find out whether the retired NASA astronaut had witnessed anything out of the ordinary during his year in space. Although he stated he didn’t see any kind of unexplained objects in orbit, Kelly said that “it’s likely there is intelligent life in the universe.”
Speaking of intelligent life, the conversation then veered towards the topic of flat-earthers and how their theories can impact the public’s views on science.
“I think a lot of those flat-earthers don’t believe the earth is flat. The risk is when you discount something that is clearly fact, it causes people to question other scientific facts and that can be dangerous,” Kelly said.