Mark and Scott Kelly are out of this world at Bryan Series

For many of us, most of our day-to-day life happens in the small town of Greensboro. For Mark and Scott Kelly, day-to-day life can happen over 200,000 miles above our heads.

On Oct. 18, astronauts and identical twin brothers Mark and Scott visited Guilford College for the second Bryan Series event of the academic year.

“We knew that Mark had been doing speaking for years, since he retired as a space shuttle commander, astronaut, pilot,” said Ty Buckner, associate vice president for the Bryan Series and advancement communications. “We knew that Scott was coming to the end of … a year in space and talked with the agency that represents the both of them about a possible joint presentation.”

Mark and Scott first spoke in Joseph M. Bryan Jr. Auditorium at the student session.

“The Bryan Series event (with) Mark and Scott Kelly was an excellent opportunity for us students to engage with the first twin astronauts,” said junior Chance Mashburn. “I’ve been interested in Scott and Mark Kelly because of their experiences in the space program and politics.”

The Guilford community had the chance to ask Mark and Scott questions, including what it is like to come back to Earth after spending so long in space.

“Initially, it’s very exciting,” said Scott. “You’re deprived of a lot (in space).”

The audience also asked about Mark and Scott’s feelings on working with other countries.

“Whenever we can collaborate, … it’s a good thing,” said Mark.

Guilfordians came away from the session excited about meeting Mark and Scott as well as for the talk at the Greensboro Coliseum later that evening.

“I knew Mark and Scott would be able to share stories and experiences that I never could have imagined, and I was right,” said Chair and Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Jill Peterfeso.

“I also valued their perspective on everything from the future of space travel, including its private and public iterations, to camaraderie between countries working on the ISS.”

At the Coliseum, there were several changes from years past, including student seating by the stage as well as to the stage itself.

“After two years in the Coliseum, we made some changes in the staging,” said Buckner. “The size of the stage is more than sufficient for what we need, so we reduced it. We left sort of a piece of it on the front, … so they can step out and get a little more in touch with the audience.”

Mark and Scott were introduced by senior Society of Physics Students club president Sarah Overstreet and President Jane Fernandes.

“They are NASA astronauts, American heroes,” said Fernandes. “They’re very smart, very quick thinkers.

“No matter what challenges they face together, they’ll face it with humor, quick-thinking, good repartee and they’ll land on their feet.”

Mark and Scott spend the time at the Coliseum telling stories about their childhood, their military training and their time in space.

Both Mark and Scott shared their experiences of seeing Earth from space for the first time.

“I said, what the hell is that, and (the commander) said, ‘that’s the sunrise,’” said Scott. “And as the sun came up, I saw how blue planet Earth was, and it was like someone took the most brilliantly blue paint and painted it on a mirror right in front of my face.

“I knew right then that Earth would be the most beautiful thing I would ever see in my whole life.”

For both Mark and Scott, going into space was one of the hardest things they have ever done. But they also believe it was necessary.

“It was in September of 1962 that our president, John F. Kennedy, said we choose to go to the moon and to do those other things not because they’re easy, but because they’re hard,” said Mark. “Choosing to do hard things as a nation, that’s the greatest gift that we can give our children and our grandchildren.”

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