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Former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly knows a thing or two about isolation.
In 2016, Kelly became the first American to spend 12 consecutive months in space when he completed a 340-day stint on the International Space Station.
Kelly spoke to Fox News from his apartment in Houston and explained how he is coping with the coronavirus lockdown.
“It has been a massive change in my normal life,” he said. “When this happened, I was in Dubai, filming a TV show – I was going to be there for a couple of months.”
Kelly returned to the U.S., and like millions of other Americans, he has been sheltering at home. He told Fox News that his primary job in recent years has been as a motivational speaker at corporate events. With large public gatherings banned across the globe, this role is on hold, at least for now.
"If you asked me how many days I have been in quarantine for, I couldn’t tell you,” he said, acknowledging the similarities between the lockdown and his time in space. “This was my job, dealing with the situation and following the guidance – it’s very analogous to my mindset when I was in space.”
The former test pilot and Navy fighter pilot explained that, before his historic stay on the ISS, he had already had an experience of long-duration spaceflight. “I flew a six-month flight before I flew in space for a year,” he said. “That experience taught me that six months in space is a really long time.”
When approached to spend a year in space, Kelly said that he overcame his initial misgivings and made a careful plan to deal with the 340 days in space. “It involved a lot of activities, not only my work,” he said. For example, Kelly became a social media star during his time in orbit, sharing his incredible experiences on the likes of Twitter.
“I never felt like the walls were closing in on me during my year on the ISS, the duration was part of the mission,” he explained. “But given the choice of spending a year in space or a year in my apartment in Houston, then the apartment wins every time!”
Now, with America in coronavirus lockdown, Kelly emphasized the importance of exercise and staying connected with family and friends. “I did that in space, and I do it now,” he added.
The former astronaut acknowledged the devastating impact of coronavirus, which has resulted in over 192,000 deaths worldwide, including more than 50,000 in the U.S. “I don’t pretend to understand how bad this is for some people,” he said.
Kelly said that people need to come together to win the coronavirus battle. “This pandemic has brought us all together with one common experience and one common goal – that is to defeat it,” he explained.
“We need to listen to the experts,” he added. “We need to do whatever we can to follow the guidelines that we were given from the experts.”
Set against this backdrop, turning the pandemic into a political issue is “insane,” according to Kelly. “This is a science problem, it’s real science, it’s not political science,” he said. “With real science, you need scientists and you need to trust what they are saying and follow their guidelines.”
Like the rest of America, the former astronaut is eager for an eventual return of normalcy.
“I look forward to spending more time outside, going back to work,” he said. “The biggest thing that I look forward to, and this is the same thing that I looked forward to when I was in space, and that’s people.”
Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers