Matters of mankind kept him sane during his 340 days orbiting the Earth, but Scott Kelly returned home blabbing out the last thing NASA wants one of its astronauts disclosing to the public. Thankfully for NASA, Kelly's talk of fending off aliens wasn't the delusions of a man who spent so much time in space that his spine sprawled out to add 1.5 inches to his height.
The bug-eyed guys in gray likely haven't forgotten about NASA's lunar strike, which sought to tap into the moon's supply of frozen water. They haven't forgotten about the flag planted there by earthlings or the game of golf the astronauts played there either.
There's probably none of that going on, but conspiracy theorists are people too.
And while Kelly was surprised at how long the mission felt and admitted that "maybe occasionally you do go bananas," he and his shipmates' battle for the future of mankind was a selfless mission for science and his time deconstructing attacking alien craft with laser cannons may have been one of the things that enabled him to return home with his sanity in tow.
Watching the astronauts pinch at thin air, maybe mouthing "pew, pew, pew," and without knowing that futuristic masks over their faces are Microsoft's HoloLens, it might be hard to argue that something hadn't gone horribly wrong aboard the space station and in the minds of its occupants.
"I think that virtual reality has a lot of potential," Kelly said on Friday after being granted his request to be taken to our leaders. "[The HoloLens] worked great. I was really surprised. We messed around with it for, like, two hours, and immediately, I sensed, this is a capability we could use right now."
— ISS Research (@ISS_Research) March 4, 2016
Some of the $3,000 augmented reality headsets were shipped to the space station for testing. But no software-based business machine has ever been used strictly for work, a fact that may be skewed by the innate human ability to look busy on the job.
It wasn't all fun and intergalactic games for the astronauts while testing HoloLens. The astronauts were testing the effectiveness of augmented reality technology for use in everything, from the mission critical to the mundane. Use of the headsets, which mix reality with computer-generated content beamed to the eyeballs, was a part of Project Sidekick, the collaboration between NASA and Microsoft.
Back on Earth, Kelly spoke of how effective the headset was in helping him work through a checklist of tasks. He also seemed to have been impressed by the ability for ground control to draw things directly into his field of view.
"The technology, in general, has got great potential for applications not only in space, but of course, on Earth as well," said Kelly.
A lot of changes happened while Kelly was away. But it wasn't just the Earth that changed during that time, as spending a year in space also has some pronounced effects on the human body.
The astronaut's skin became hypersensitive because it didn't come into contact with other things. His spine also expanded, though it retracted and he returned to his normal height when he returned home.
Kelly, 52, spent 340 days in space and traveled close to 144 million miles during the trip. He returned home delivering a wealth of data that scientists will quietly analyze until they're ready to make their findings public in scientific journals.