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NASA astronaut Scott Kelly is seen inside the International Space Station on July 12, 2015. Photo: NASA via Getty Images

Captain Scott Kelly, an astronaut who spent a year on the International Space Station, talked with Axios about the results of a new survey that found the public has mixed views on science, his path to space, and the disconnect some people perceive between science and their daily lives.

Why science matters, per Kelly: “As time goes on, and our population grows on this planet, there are going to be problems with climate change, food, and water availability. These issues and problems are only going to be solved by science."

On the belief that you have to be a genius to be a scientist:

“I wasn’t a good student, I never thought that I could be a part of science or a scientist growing up. And I think, you know, I perhaps would have answered questions in this survey like a lot of people answered them. But it turns out, if you find inspiration somewhere or you work hard, most people tend to be successful.”

How the public views astronauts and the International Space Station:

"As an astronaut, especially coming back from a mission that got a lot of attention, I was exposed to the public. I’m always pleasantly surprised and reminded how interested people are in the space program. I’m not sure how much that interest translates into science in general, but I’m hopeful that this kind of enthusiasm translates over.”

On building enthusiasm outside of high-profile research:

"I think that big research and machines in space get people excited about science and math, but that’s not all of it. Science is something that you can do with your kids on an everyday basis. You can talk about it and encourage your kids to read books about science."

Why getting kids into science matters:

"It’s critical that we have a very diverse wide ranging availability of people to go into these fields. I think it’s important for me, especially as a parent, I have two young kids, that’ll live throughout this century. The quality of the world that we live in, or don’t, will be based on the talent and ability of scientists to solve the problems."

Why we should always have humans in space:

"I think we should make a commitment to never have all humans on Earth at one time. We’ve had people in space [non-stop] since 2000. It should continue somehow, whether on the ISS or elsewhere. We’re naturally explorers, it’s part of our DNA. I think that for us to thrive we need to continue to explore and push our boundaries, whether it’s going to Mars someday or elsewhere.

"The space program is expensive, but the benefits we get through the development of technology are worth the investment. And I think that if it inspires kids to become involved in science or math, then it’s worth every penny. If you have an 18 year old kid, that kid’s whole life, there have been people in space. I’ve never really thought of that before."

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - World

U.S. releases report finding Saudi prince approved Khashoggi operation

Photo: Bandar Algaloud / Saudi Kingdom Council / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has released an unclassified report assessing that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) approved the operation to "capture or kill" Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Driving the news: The White House also announced sanctions on entities implicated in the murder, though not on MBS directly. Officials also announced a new "Khashoggi ban" under which individuals accused of harassing journalists or dissidents outside their borders can be barred from entering the U.S.

About 20% of U.S. adults have received first vaccine dose, White House says

Joe Biden speaks during an event commemorating the 50 million COVID-19 vaccine shots. Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

Nearly 1 in 5 adults and nearly half of Americans 65 and older have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, White House senior adviser Andy Slavitt said on Friday.

The big picture: The Biden administration has previously said it has secured enough doses to vaccinate most of the American population by the end of July.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Most COVID-19 survivors can weather risk of reinfection, study says — "Twindemic" averted as flu reports plummet amid coronavirus crisis
  2. Vaccine: Employers mull COVID vaccine requirements — New data reignites the debate over coronavirus vaccine strategyPfizer begins study on 3rd vaccine dose as booster shot against new strains.
  3. Economy: What's really going on with the labor market.
  4. Local: All adult Minnesotans will likely be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by summer — Another wealthy Florida community receives special access to COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. Sports: Poll weighs impact of athlete vaccination.