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Astronaut Scott Kelly is no stranger to stardom, having rocketed to fame as the first American to spend a year in space.

In fact, by the time he returns to Earth in March, he will have spent more than 500 days total in orbit, a record for any American and trailing only a small number of cosmonauts.

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Astronaut and UT alumnus Scott Kelly poses on the International Space Station with the Earth in the background in this photo from NASA.

For that service, R&D Magazine has recognized Kelly, a graduate of the University of Tennessee Space Institute, as its 2015 Scientist of the Year.

While proud of the accomplishments that have made his career possible, Kelly, through a video message relayed to the R&D Magazine annual conference, said he was “humbled, too, because I am representing the hundreds of scientists who designed the experiments being done on ISS today—and in some cases, I am the subject of these experiments.

“We know there is much more to come.”

The award, given annually for fifty years, celebrates progress made in technology, research, and scientific gains over an individual’s career and covers most scientific disciplines.

In addition to his extraterrestrial work, Kelly keeps his earthbound audience informed through frequent messages from his Twitter account—@StationCDRKelly—including images of weather patterns and contests where he urges followers to guess the land mass he’s photographed that day.

“Kelly has spent a lot of his life going very, very fast,” said Bea Riemschneider, editorial director of the Advantage Business Media Science Group, the parent organization of the R&D 100 Awards and R&D Magazine. “He is currently soaring above our heads at about five miles per second on the International Space Station with his Russian counterpart, where he is scheduled to perform more than 450 experiments during the yearlong voyage.”

Kelly followed fellow UTSI graduate Barry Wilmore on the space station, giving UT an almost eighteen-month span of consecutive presence in space. Despite its Tullahoma location, UTSI falls under the auspices of the UT Knoxville College of Engineering.

Before his launch last spring, he addressed students in UT’s Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering about the rigors of space flight and the rewards it offers.

“It’s a great field to work in—it’s very challenging, very rewarding,” said Kelly. “There’s a very bright future for aerospace engineers, or any engineers, or people in technical fields across the board.”


David Goddard (865-974-0683,