One year after returning to Earth from his 340-day mission in orbit, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly loves the smell of grass and the feel of water and wind. He now knows it’s important to sit and eat with others and that he has a new empathy for people.
The 53-year-old astronaut returned home on March 1, 2016, after circling the planet more than 5,440 times aboard the International Space Station.
“I think sometimes people want to hear there was one profound scientific discovery from the 340 days I spent circling the planet — something that struck me or the scientists on the ground like a cosmic ray through the skull at some climactic moment during my mission. I don’t have anything like that to offer,” Kelly wrote in Time.
While scientists are still picking over the data related to what prolonged spaceflight may have done to Kelly’s body, his own observations about himself shed some light on what appears to be a more appreciative sense of his surroundings and the people he interacts with.
“I’ve learned that I can be really calm in bad situations. I’ve known this about myself since I was a kid, but it has definitely been reinforced.”
“I’ve learned to better compartmentalize, which doesn’t mean forgetting about feelings but instead means focusing on the things I can control and ignoring what I can’t.”
“I’ve learned that grass smells great, and wind feels amazing, and rain is a miracle. I will try to remember how magical these things are for the rest of my life.”
And while he was high above the planet for so long, seeing and capturing views that most of us can only dream about, Kelly can also sound like anyone who takes the time to look around.
“I’ve learned that following the news from space can make Earth seem like a swirl of chaos and conflict, and that seeing the environmental degradation caused by humans is heartbreaking. I’ve also learned that our planet is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen and that we’re lucky to be here.”