History-Making Astronaut Scott Kelly on Space Travel, Social Media

By Monica C. Meinert

Retired U.S. Navy Captain and NASA astronaut Scott Kelly captured the attention of the entire world recently after spending 340 days on the International Space Station. Kelly’s mission included scientific studies on the effects of long-duration space travel on the human body—which included a twin study conducted in conjunction with his identical twin brother, Mark, an astronaut who remained on Earth.

Kelly documented his out-of-this-world adventure on social media, after President Obama told him in the days before his departure to “Instagram it.” Kelly took the presidential directive to heart, tweeting out photos and messages daily from the International Space Station and participating in live Twitter chats, Reddit forums and video interviews while in orbit 250 miles aScott Kelly - Upfrontbove Earth. Over the course of his 340-day stay on the ISS, he amassed over 1 million Twitter followers. For Kelly, it was about “engaging the customer—the taxpayer—in the conversation” about science and space exploration.

While he planned some content in advance, Kelly says that most of the time, his posts were spontaneous. And given the spontaneous nature of social media, it comes as little surprise that his favorite social media “moment” happened during a live Twitter chat.

“President Obama tweeted me and asked, ‘Do you ever look out the window and just freak out?’” Kelly says. True to his calm, collected demeanor (he credits his Navy training for that), he responded: “I don’t freak out about anything, Mr. President. Except getting a Twitter question from you.” It was at that point that former astronaut Buzz Aldrin chimed in. “He’s 249 miles above the earth. Piece of cake. Neil [Armstrong], Mike [Collins] and I went 239,000 miles to the moon,” Aldrin tweeted.

“I was trolled by Buzz Aldrin!” Kelly laughs. “That was probably the coolest social media moment of all time—nothing will top that.”

Spending a year in space without the many creature comforts of Earth is a true test of an individual’s personal limits, and bankers will have the opportunity to hear Kelly’s unique insights during his keynote presentation at ABA’s Annual Convention, October 16-18 in Nashville.

“I talk about my experiences growing up and how I got to this point,” Kelly says. “Flying in space for a year, there are a lot of stories along the way, and some important messages that hopefully [bankers]can take back to their organizations and use in their businesses, about leadership, teamwork.”

So what does Kelly most want people to take away from his incredible year in space? “That we can achieve anything if we put our minds to it,” he says. “We built that space station—an international partnership between 15 different countries, and it’s up there flying around at 17,500 miles an hour. It’s the hardest thing we’ve ever done. If we can do that, we can do anything.”


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