Keynote Speakers Mark and Scott Kelly Deliver the Right Stuff to ANC

2017-07-03

SNA's 2017 Annual National Conference (ANC)

The following is the twentieth and final article in a series of news stories exploring the exciting opportunities and events at ANC.

After spending an entire groundbreaking year in the International Space Station (ISS) orbiting the globe in utter weightlessness, Captain Scott Kelly found the hardest thing to adjust back to was the gravitational pull of the Earth.

“The most overwhelming part of it is gravity itself,” Kelly told CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta, M.D., upon his return in March 2016, “and I still haven't gotten over it completely.”

Scott and his identical twin brother and fellow astronaut Captain Mark Kelly promise to keep their feet firmly planted on the ground when they are both welcomed as General Session keynote speakers at SNA’s Annual National Conference in Atlanta on Sunday July 9.

“Floating is great, seeing the Earth is better [but] going to the bathroom is hard,” laughed Scott, as he explained what he and his brother Mark will be talking about with attendees. “We will be sharing a lot about our experiences on Earth and in space. From flying off of aircraft carriers to flying into and living in space. We plan on passing on some lessons that we've learned from decades as pilots in the US Navy and astronauts at NASA.”

In addition to his aeronautical career, Mark is the husband of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who survived the tragic the January 2011 assassination attempt on her life, which he termed the “the hardest time in my life.”

“I learned that when things appear the darkest there is only one direction to head and that is up” stressed Mark. “We will discuss facing challenges in our presentation, but in a nutshell – focus on what you have control over and forget about the rest.”

While most ISS missions last only five-to six months, Scott’s specific one-year scientific goal was to better understand how the human body reacts and adapts to lengthy periods in space. Scott’s year, included 5,440 orbits around the globe and concluded with three spacewalks before returning to Earth. All total, Scott logged 540 days in space. Not to be completely outdone by his twin’s accomplishment, Mark has spent 55 days in space. Which is to say, the twins are only separated by orbits.

“We both learned to be grateful of this planet we call home,” said Scott. “How lucky were we to be born on a planet that isn't too hot, but not too cold....to have the right amount of gravity to keep the water from disappearing into space. Earth is unique and we should appreciate it.”

Scott and Mark also participated in NASA’s Twin Study to see if there were any genetic changes from spending long periods of time in space compared to Earth. During his year orbiting the globe, Scott spoke to Mark almost every day, discussing everything from football to politics. Upon returning to Earth, Scott joked, that because he spent so much more time in space than Mark, he came back temporarily two inches taller and due to a smaller heart, five milliseconds younger.

Growing in West Orange, New Jersey, both Scott and Mark dreamed of becoming pilots and going into space but took slightly different paths. Mark joined the Navy as a test pilot while Scott attended the University of Maryland and briefly considered becoming a physician. But a year into his studies, Scott’s interest in flight gravitated him to join the Navy as a test pilot. Later, after distinguished careers as Navy naval aviators and pilots, both applied to the NASA astronaut program.

Before leaving for his NASA interview and week of testing, Mark asked Scott – because they are the same size – if he could borrow his one and only suit. A few months later, when Scott went for his NASA interview and testing, he asked Mark to buy him a new suit, because he did not want to show up in the same outfit. Unfortunately, Mark balked at the idea, so Scott arrived wearing the same suit and shoes.

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“Becoming astronauts was the highlight of our professional careers. I just didn't have a decent suit,” deadpanned Mark.

Both retired astronauts, Mark is currently the director of Flight Crew Operations for Arizona-based World View Enterprises. Scott was appointed United Nations Champions for Space by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs in November 2016.

Please join us as we welcome Scott and Mark back to Earth.

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