BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan — When U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly blasts off to the International Space Station, he will have one unlikely consolation as he begins five months away from his family — his identical twin will drop by.
Kelly and Russia's Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka will take off early Friday on a Russian Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur cosmodrome leased by Russia in southern Kazakhstan for a five-month mission.
Scott Kelly will be joined at the space station by his brother Mark, another NASA astronaut who will fly the Endeavor space shuttle.
"As kids, we never thought we'd be in this unique and privileged position to be able to do this," Scott Kelly told reporters from behind a plate of protective glass. The cosmonauts are kept in strict isolation in the days ahead of the launch to avoid exposure to infection.
During the pre-launch news conference Mark Kelly looked at Scott from the other side of the glass as he sat next to journalists, engineers and NASA officials.
Mark Kelly told The Associated Press he had thought it unlikely that he and his brother would meet in space, even when they both were on space flight training programs.
This twist of fate became possible after Mark Kelly's shuttle flight was postponed in July. "It wasn't planned. I should have landed by now," he said.
Perhaps it's the kid in me, but this may be the most heart-warming news story I've read since I've been home. Who among us never at least once looked up to the stars as a kid, turned to a sibling or a friend, and said, "We're gonna go up there someday"?
Some of my most precious memories involve gazing at the stars with my friends. As kids we would sometimes lie on the trampoline and talk about being astronauts, dreaming of when we would someday look down at the earth in wonder. It's so good to see two brothers realize their boyhood dream, not only for them, but also for the sweet reminder it is to me.
What closer bond is there between brothers than the dream? I'm grateful that my brother and I have dreams. He and I made many plans, before but especially during my mission. And I'm grateful that we're going out and making them happen. We've explored the mountains a little. We're taking Institute classes together. And in the next few weeks, we're getting on a plane, and Matthew is gonna fly it.
These are our stars.