Fresh from a year in space, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly said Friday his muscles and joints ache. His skin is so sensitive it burns when he sits or walks. And he can't sink a basketball shot.
He's surprised — not necessarily about his basketball skills, but everything else. After his previous half-year space station mission five years ago, he wasn't nearly this tired or sore.
"Adjusting to space is easier than adjusting to Earth for me," he said at his first postflight news conference Friday.
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Kelly returned from the International Space Station on Wednesday, ending a 340-day mission that set a U.S. record. It took him a full day to get back home from Kazakhstan to Houston. That's when the aches and pains set in — this from the guy who hopped out of his space capsule and jumped into his backyard pool after he walked through the door. Initially, he felt better than last time, but that quickly changed.
Like other astronauts, he got taller in space, gaining 1½ inches. But he lost it almost as soon as he stood on solid ground.
The 52-year-old said because his skin hasn't had significant contact with anything for so long — in space, clothes just float around you — "it's very, very sensitive. It's almost like a burning feeling wherever I like sit or lie or walk. I'm not wearing these shoes all the time," he said, kicking up his right foot, which sported a shiny black dress shoe. "I just wore them for you guys."
Thick running shoes are his preference these days; they make his feet "feel a little bit better."
As for the culture shock of being back on Earth, Kelly expects that will hit soon. "From having so little on the space station and so few choices about what you're going to do every day, what's available to you, to basically having just about anything," he told reporters.
His first food back on Earth? A banana he found on his bed aboard the plane. He didn't realize the irony until he ate half of it; he cavorted around the space station a few weeks ago in a gorilla suit, a gag gift from his identical twin, Mark, a retired astronaut.
As for differences between the brothers — genetic doubles who took part in medical studies throughout the flight — Mark has a better tan, according to Scott. "Too much golf." Data over the coming year will point out any hidden differences. NASA wants to know how the body and mind adjust to long periods in space before sending astronauts to Mars; expeditions are planned for the 2030s.
Kelly's companion for the entire space journey, cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, 55, is back home in Star City, Russia, dealing with his own adjustments to gravity.
If Kelly is any indication, Mars crews will need to get plenty of Earth news. Busy with medical exams and interviews, Kelly said he's going through a bit of news withdrawal right now. He had the news on throughout his working day in orbit, broadcast on a large projector TV screen.
In fact, one of the first things he asked his flight surgeon following touchdown was "how Super Tuesday went."
When asked what he thought about the results, he begged off giving an opinion — he's a federal employee, after all.