Astronaut Scott Kelly recently returned to earth after living 340 days in the International Space Station. He set the record for the longest time an American has lived in space. It was inspiring to see him lifted out of the capsule and take his first steps in earth’s gravity.
Kelly is a modern-day explorer and guinea pig for space travel. The goal for this 52 year old astronaut was to see what life would be like up in space for that long. His twin brother, Mark Kelly, a retired astronaut, is also a guinea pig. Since their bodies are remarkably similar, multiple tests have been taken both on Scott and Mark over the past year to see what, if any, changes happen to the human body in space. The question NASA wants to answer is what will happen to astronauts in flight to Mars, a trip that would take more than two years.
After touching down on earth, Kelly was immediately put through physical endurance tests to see what he could do. This was a simulation of what would happen on Mars. It dawned on me that on Mars there will be no helpers to lift him and his crew out of the capsule. They’ll have to do it all themselves. What will it be like for the first humans on Mars to try to stand and walk again. One of the first reports (as of this writing) is that Scott has grown two inches taller than Mark. Apparently, being freed from gravity will do that.
I do need to point out that it is impressive what Scott Kelly has done in the name of science and for America. Nevertheless, to put it into perspective, former cosmonaut and space agency chief Talgat Musabayev said to Kelly, “Congratulations on your record. Of course, it was already done 28 years ago.” Back in the mid-1990’s, Russia set the still standing record in space at 438 days on the Mir space station and prior to that, two cosmonauts stayed in space for a full year. Scott and Mark’s contribution to space travel, however, has added important understanding of the changes that happen to the human body in space flight.
Scott Kelly’s partner, Amiko, told a story about talking with him on the phone one day – she was in Houston, he was 220 miles above earth. He told her that they were about to fly over Houston. She ran outside and watched the station pass by – all the while screaming, waiving and jumping up and down. He didn’t see her but mentioned in an interview that the hardest thing about extended time in space is being away from family and friends.
Scripture tells us that Jesus is not of this world. We are told that we are citizens of another Kingdom – one that belongs to God. I’ve often wondered if there is gravity in heaven. Will we be taller there than on earth? And if there is no gravity in heaven, when Jesus returns, how will he deal with the change? Will one of us be there to help him move around and get used to it again. Or, what if he’s already here; what if he’s our neighbor that we pass by every once in a while. After all, time in space is hardest because of separation from loved ones. He loves us more than we can ask or imagine. Something tells me he’ll be quite familiar with our own gravitational forces when he returns.