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UT grad receives standing ovation during State of the Union | News

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UT grad receives standing ovation during State of the Union

In his State of the Union address Tuesday evening, President Barack Obama wished Scott Kelly, a University of Tennessee graduate, good luck as he prepares to embark on a year-long journey in space.

Kelly, who hails from Houston, Texas, was among 22 guests the White House selected to attend the State of the Union address. Kelly sat with first lady Michelle Obama and Chelsey Davis, a student from Pellissippi State Community College. Obama's well wishes to Kelly were followed by a standing ovation from Congress.

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"Last month, we launched a new spacecraft as part of a re-energized space program that will send American astronauts to Mars," Obama said. "In two months, to prepare for us to missions, Scott Kelly will begin a year-long stay in space. Good luck, captain (Scott Kelly) - and make sure to Instagram it."

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After the address, Kelly shared a picture on Instagram, joking that a NASA.gov editor couldn't get him to Instagram more but the President of the United States can.

In late March, Kelly will start his mission to become the first American to live and work aboard the International Space Station for a year. Fellow UT grad Barry "Butch" Wilmore is scheduled to depart the space station two weeks before that. Kelly earned a master's degree in aviation systems from UT in 1996. Two years prior, Wilmore graduated from the same program at UT.

During his year-long stay aboard the ISS, Kelly will delve into hundreds of science experiments that focus on medical, psychological, and biomedical challenges astronauts face during long-duration space flight.

NASA hopes Kelly and his identical twin brother Mark, husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, hold the key to protecting the human body during lengthy trips to space. Scientists will compare medical data from the Kelly twins to see how the human body responds over time in space. As Scott undergoes experiments on the space station, his twin Mark will receive tests on earth.

For months, scientists will measure how Scott and Mark change physically and emotionally, examining their immune systems, reaction times, heart health, and vision, reports The Washington Post. White House says this research will help set the path for sending humans to Mars by the 2030s, a goal set by President Obama.

For Kelly, space is no stranger: he has logged more than 180 days in flying above earth, serving both as pilot and commander on space shuttle missions. Scott Kelly was actually in space when he found out his sister-in-law was shot.

Time Magazine featured the Kelly twins in the December issue, with Scott making the cover.


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