|Children with U.S and Russian flags wait to cheer the returning space men.|
|Yury Gagarin's statue|
When I covered the launch of these three men last October it was with Scott Kelly’s brother Mark watching with me. He too is an astronaut and was due to meet his brother in space when Scott was commanding the ISS and Mark was leading the discovery space shuttle's last mission. They would have been the first brothers in space. Unfortunately the discovery's mission was delayed until after Scott came back.
For their time circling earth the three helped to measure the effect of radiation on models of the human body and its tissue. The mannequins 'Mr Rando' and 'Matryushka' were stuck out into space to sample radiation levels which scientists rate as the biggest threat to cosmonauts, being twice the level of that on earth.
In the 'Expose-R' experiment organic material from plants, bacteria and insects was subjected to the same treatment to see what organisms might have survived millions of years ago and gain some insight into the mystery of life's origin on earth.
They also received space vehicles from Russia, the U.S, Europe and Japan.
It had been a busy six months, conducted smoothly. This celebration was thanks from star city, from Russia and from the wider world.
When I talked to Scott after the presentation we reflected on the fifty years since Gagarin’s first historic flight. “What do you think will happen in the next fifty years of space exploration,” I asked. “Maybe Mars?”
“Maybe,” replied Scott with a smile, “I’d certainly want to live to see that.”
With space pioneers like Kaleri, Scott and Skripochka, he just might.
|Left to right- Scott Kelly, Aleksandr Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka|
lay flowers at the base of Gagarin's statue.