Scott Kelly (’96)

Category: Awards | Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna

2019 Distinguished Alumnus Award Winner

Outer space, the final frontier, is an area that few have explored. However, Scott Kelly can claim that feat, having spent 520 days in space during his career with NASA.

Kelly graduated from the State University of New York Maritime College in 1987 with a BS in electrical engineering. He served as a pilot and US Navy officer for several years before returning to school to earn his MS in aviation systems from UT in 1996.

After completing his master’s degree, Kelly was recruited as a NASA astronaut. In his career, Kelly was part of four space flights and commanded the International Space Station (ISS) on Expeditions 26, 45, and 46. He joined a NASA mission to study the long-term effects of astronauts in space and spent 340 days in space, the longest consecutive record for a US astronaut. This study allowed NASA to compare the effects of Kelly’s health after nearly a year in space with the health of his identical twin brother, Mark, a fellow astronaut who remained on earth during the same period, providing groundbreaking insights about space’s effect on DNA.

Kelly is the winner of numerous awards and decorations including two Defense Superior Service Medals, the Legion of Merit decoration, three NASA Space Flight Medals, the Russian Federation Medal for Space Exploration, and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, the highest honor bestowed by NASA. He holds an honorary doctorate from the State University of New York and was featured on the cover of Time in 2014, followed by being named as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in 2015.

He has written three books about his time in space, including My Journey to the Stars, a children’s picture book; Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery, a bestselling memoir co-written by UT professor Margaret Lazarus Dean; and Infinite Wonder, a collection of Kelly’s photos from space.

Kelly retired from NASA in 2016 and now serves as the United Nations Champion for Space, advocating for space exploration and enjoying his time in earth’s gravity.