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A UT Space Institute graduate has blasted off for space and is on his way to making history. Scott Kelly graduated with a master’s degree in aviation systems in 1996. Thursday, he and his two Russian cosmonaut colleagues lifted in Russia’s first all-digital Soyuz TMA-01M, according to AP reports.

Scott is on a six-month mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Scott’s twin brother, Mark, is scheduled to command Endeavour on its last shuttle mission at the end of February. If Endeavour’s launch date holds, that will mark the first time that siblings are in space together, NASA officials said.

Cmdr. Scott Kelly
Cmdr. Scott Kelly (photo provided by NASA)

The brothers, 46, are slated to spend eight days together on the space station.

Thursday’s flight is Scott’s third trip in orbit; Endeavour will be Mark’s fourth flight.

Since joining NASA in 1996, Scott has flown two shuttle missions and will take over in November as commander of the orbiting outpost. He will spend time aboard the ISS as part of Expedition 25 and 26, according to the AP.

The seeds of Scott’s interest in spaceflight were planted at a young age, according to a NASA interview.

“Certainly the Apollo program, being a kid during the moon landings and having a memory of that, was always in my mind,” he said. “I thought it would just be a very challenging and exciting job. And I was right.”

According to Scott, the greatest challenge of spaceflight is ensuring that the crew is properly trained and ready to fly.

“There are so many different complicated tasks we have to do. So making sure that everyone, including myself, is at the right level of training is certainly, I think, the most challenging aspect of it,” he said.

Scott pointed to the experience of launch as his favorite part of spaceflight.

“When you’re watching the shuttle launch as a spectator, it looks like [the shuttle is] lifting off the pad slowly,” said Scott. “But when you’re inside, it seems like you’re really getting up and going in a hurry. You know you’re going somewhere; you’re not exactly sure where, but you know you’re not coming back to Florida. It’s quite a wild ride.”