NASA's Scott Kelly retires after year in space, says 'journey is not over'

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly is seen inside the cupola of the International Space Station, a special module that provides a 360-degree viewing of the Earth and the station in this undated photo released on March 11, 2016. © NASA
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who during almost a year in space regularly surprised us with stunning pictures of Earth and his gorilla-suit pranks on fellow members of the ISS, has announced his retirement. He says he will still continue to contribute to space exploration.

“On April 1, I will retire from NASA. While I am leaving NASA, the journey is not over,” the 52-year-old astronaut wrote on Facebook. “Our universe is a big place, and we have many millions of miles yet to explore. My departure from NASA is my next step on that journey.”

The American, who helped greatly in popularizing space, says that he has recently “returned to our planet after traveling some 143,846,525 miles around our globe on a yearlong space mission that aims to push our limits as explorers.”

Kelly currently holds the American record for the most time spent in space, and says he still remains “committed and dedicated to the service of human exploration and advancement, whether in space or on Earth.”

“Following my retirement, I will continue to participate in the ongoing research related to NASA’s one-year mission for as long as is necessary,” says Kelly, who has been an astronaut for 20 years.

According to the space veteran, he is “deeply honored to have served four times in the most unique humbling place off the planet: in space.”

“I am humbled and excited by new opportunities for me to support and share the amazing work NASA is doing to help us travel farther into the solar system and work with the next generation of science and technology leaders. I look forward to continuing my 30 years of public service in a new role.”

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NASA says that Kelly will provide “periodic medical samples” and testing in much the same way that “his twin brother, former astronaut Mark Kelly, made himself available for NASA’s Twins Study during his brother’s mission.”

During almost a year in space, Kelly often took to social media to show us here on Earth just how spectacular the view of our planet is from the International Space Station (ISS). He also showed a sense of humor, pranking his UK colleague Tim Peak by posing as a gorilla.

Kelly also managed to achieve a significant milestone by successfully growing the first flower in space. The orange zinnia, which is found in the south west of the US, could be seen in full bloom aboard the ISS.

In October he posted jaw-dropping pictures of the mysterious and wild Sahara Desert, the Earth’s largest hotspot. The unbelievably bright 3D-like images wowed the audience.

Kelly often captured severe snowstorms and blizzards as they gathered above the Earth’s surface.