After spending a year in space aboard the International Space Station, astronaut Scott Kelly will retire from NASA effective April 1, the space agency announced Friday.
“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," Kelly said in a statement.
Upon retiring, NASA announced that Kelly will continue to participate in research related to his one-year mission, providing medical samples and support for other scientific testing.
NASA expects the yearlong mission to help scientists better understand how the human body reacts and adapts to long-duration spaceflight, as the agency develops capabilities for manned missions to Mars by the 2030s.
Some research will involve comparing Scott Kelly to his brother, former astronaut Mark Kelly, testing blood samples and performance on psychological and physical tests.
Kelly spent an astonishing 340 consecutive days away from the planet with Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, his fellow yearlong crew member. During their year in space, Kelly and Kornienko orbited Earth 5,440 times, traveling a total 143,846,525 miles, according to NASA. The pair returned to Earth just last week.
Among U.S. astronauts, Kelly holds the records for both consecutive days in space and cumulative time in space, spending a total of 520 days overall in orbit.
Kelly has been to space four times. He took his first trip in the space shuttle Discovery on a servicing trip to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope in 1999. His second mission was as commander of the space shuttle Endeavour, and it was on that trip that he entered the International Space Station for the first time. In 2010, as commander of Expedition 26, he returned to station for a six-month stay.
“When the first Americans set foot on Mars, they will be following in the footsteps of one of the finest astronauts in the history of the space program, my friend, Commander Scott Kelly,"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said following the announcement of Kelly's retirement. "After spending an American record 520 days in space -- including his year in space -- I can think of no one more deserving of some well-deserved rest and time on the same planet as his family and friends."