The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

December 5, 2012

Astronaut braces for unprecedented year in space

— CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA astronaut Scott Kelly is already bracing for an unprecedented one-year mission aboard the International Space Station. He figures it will be as grueling as climbing Mount Everest.

"It's fun when you're done with it, not while you're doing it," Kelly said Wednesday, barely a week after being named to the marathon flight along with Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko.

The mission, set to begin in 2015, is intended as a medical test bed for even longer Mars expeditions in the decades ahead.

Space station life can be routine, Kelly noted during a news conference.

"In the morning, you wake up, you're at work. When you go to sleep, you're also at work. So imagine being in your office for a whole year and you never get to leave," he said. "That is a challenge and it presents its own set of issues, but I think I'm up for it."

As for being off the planet for that long, Kelly said he already knows how he reacts to horrific news while in orbit.

During his five-month space station mission that spanned 2010 and 2011, his sister-in-law, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was shot in an assassination attempt in Tucson, Ariz. She is married to Kelly's identical twin, Mark, who retired as a NASA astronaut last year.

"Certainly, nothing good comes out of anything like this. But as a result, I do know how I respond to something along those lines," he said.

Kelly, 48, a Navy captain, has two daughters from a previous marriage, ages 9 and 18. The youngest, Charlotte, screamed "awesome" when she learned her father was selected for the one-year mission.

Brother Mark was all for it. So was Giffords. When Mark told his wife, she said, "a year in space, that's great," Scott Kelly said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.

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