SUNY Welcomes Alumnus and Astronaut Scott Kelly to Earth After a Year In Space

March 2, 2016

Throggs Neck, New York – Late last night, SUNY Maritime College alumnus Scott Kelly, ’87, felt Earth’s gravity for the first time in nearly a year. 

The astronaut safely landed in Kazakhstan after plummeting hundreds of miles to Earth from the International Space Station with Russian astronaut Mikhail Kornienko. The two have spent more than 11 months on the International Space Station to determine the effect of extended amounts of time in space on the human body.

“All of us at SUNY Maritime are thrilled to have Scott back on Earth, and congratulate him for the work he has done for science and for space exploration,” said Rear Adm. Michael A. Alfultis, president of SUNY Maritime. “Since his first days on campus, Scott has wanted to be an astronaut and we are proud that he has achieved that dream in such an important way.”

NASA has been studying Kelly and his identical twin, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, throughout the 340-day mission, to determine the effects of a long-term stay in orbit on a person’s immune system, mental health and body systems. A standard stay in the station is six months.

“Scott’s safe return to Earth is a proud moment for all of SUNY as we mark another fantastic accomplishment by one of our alumni,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher. “Congratulations to Scott and his brother, Mark, on this successful completion of the first phase of their research to better understand the human body’s immune system.”

Scott Kelly will stay in Houston for rehabilitation and more tests as his body readjusts to the Earth’s gravity.

He will return to his alma mater to be given special recognition at the annual Admiral’s Scholarship Dinner on May 3. 

Kelly has been a NASA astronaut since 1996. He has been into space four times. He spent half of his 11-month mission as the space station’s commander. 

After Kelly graduated from SUNY Maritime, he earned a master’s degree in aviation systems from the University of Tennessee. He was designated a naval aviator in 1989 and worked as a fighter pilot and, later, a test pilot. He has logged more than 8,000 hours in more than 40 different aircraft and spacecraft and has more than 250 aircraft carrier landings.

About SUNY Maritime College

SUNY Maritime College is the oldest and largest of the seven maritime academies in the nation. Founded in 1874 by the Marine Society of New York, SUNY Maritime is a four-year college that offers a solid academic program coupled with a structured regiment-style life or a civilian program for men and women. SUNY Maritime offers undergraduate and graduate degrees coupled with U.S. Coast Guard licensure or intern programs, summer training cruises, ROTC options and 15 varsity athletic teams. The college is located in New York City at historic Fort Schuyler. Its 55-acre campus offers some of the best views of the New York skyline, the East River and the Long Island Sound.

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2023, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit

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