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Astronaut Scott Kelly, visiting Kansas City, endorses eventual mission to Mars

Astronaut sees rare books by Copernicus and Galileo

Astronaut Capt. Scott Kelly saw centuries-old astronomy books during a tour of the Linda Hall Library's rare books collection Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016. Kelly, who recently returned from spending a year in space, took part in NASA's Twins Study with
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Astronaut Capt. Scott Kelly saw centuries-old astronomy books during a tour of the Linda Hall Library's rare books collection Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016. Kelly, who recently returned from spending a year in space, took part in NASA's Twins Study with

The man who broke the record for the longest time spent by a U.S. astronaut in space is bullish about going to Mars.

“I think we’re getting great things out of the space program,” retired astronaut Scott Kelly said Thursday during a visit to Kansas City. “I’m excited about us going to Mars someday. I think we can do it. I think we should do it. So I hope whoever wins the (presidential) election will support NASA and their mission to Mars.”

Kelly said he hopes it will be an international endeavor. President Barack Obama has said he wants to send people to Mars and bring them back safely by the 2030s.

Kelly spent a record 340 consecutive days aboard the International Space Station. He returned to Earth on March 1 after the nearly yearlong, 143-million-mile mission intended in part to study the effects of an extended stay in space on human physiology. Kelly’s twin brother, astronaut Mark Kelly, served as a control subject on Earth. The research will aid NASA’s understanding of the difficulties of sending humans to Mars. Scott Kelly said Thursday the data are still being analyzed.

The astronaut was asked about the biggest drawback to being confined to a space station.

“You can’t leave,” he quipped. “You’re at work all the time. You can’t go outside.”

But Kelly said he misses the challenge of space, his crewmates and gazing down at the Earth every day. He developed a following posting his photographs from space.

Kelly was in town to speak at the Unity Temple on the Plaza in a program sponsored by the Linda Hall Library Foundation. Earlier Thursday, Kelly got a look at several rare books on astronomy in the library’s special collection, including volumes by Copernicus and Galileo. Benjamin Gross, associate vice president for collections at the Linda Hall Library, said the early astronomers faced resistance to the idea that the Earth is not the center of the universe.

“I think there are people who resist that they’re not the center of the universe,” Kelly observed.

Matt Campbell: 816-234-4902, @MattCampbellKC

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