11 Life Lessons I Learned From Talking To Legendary Astronaut Mark Kelly

Mark Kelly is, unquestionably, the man. He's a world-renowned Astronaut, a Desert Storm vet, lauded test pilot, and a devoted husband and father. 

So when I sat down with Commander Kelly at Breitling's incredible boutique in Midtown Manhattan, I wanted to grasp the vantage point of a individual who has seen Earth from a different perspective (quite literally), and get his take on work, family, and life in general. Take note, and you too may make it to space one day. (But probably not.)


Don't give anxiety a chance 

“I don’t know what anxiety is,” Kelly remarked. “He really doesn’t,” his daughter Claire, chimed in. "I try to explain test anxiety to him, he just doesn’t get it.” Kelly reiterated he doesn’t get nervous during his flights, or any part of his life, really: “I don’t get too wound up about things.”

From space, Earth's problems seem pretty small

​“When you look at this round ball, and everybody's down there, it doesn't seem all that big. You get a really good appreciation for the fact that this planet is an island, floating in the blackness of space. We really don’t want to mess it up." 

Family always comes first

When asked about the biggest challenge of his life, he immediately quipped, "Getting Claire through high school," much to his adjacent daughter's disagreement. On a serious note, he conceded the real biggest challenge of his life had nothing to do with his career, but revolved around helping his wife (Kelly's wife, former Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford, was shot outside an Arizona supermarket in an assassination attempt in January of 2011).

"The biggest challenge of my life had nothing to do with my career. It was when my wife was shot in January of 2011, and aiding her recovery."

We need to take care of this world because there's nowhere else to go

"Despite what people may think, there's no place for us to go....when you think about that, you gain a better appreciation for the environment, and taking care of it."

Life's hard, but it's never as bad as you think

What's the hardest part about being Mark Kelly, today? "I'm pulled in a lot of different directions," Kelly told me. "I have to travel a lot, I have a lot on my plate...there's always some challenges, but you get through them. It's never as bad as you think it will be."

Don't end your career with regrets

"I don't think I would have done anything differently, or have any regrets about my career..." Kelly said, after a swift moment of consideration. "There's nothing I would change about what I've done. I wish I could have gone to Mars, I guess." Don't we all.

Bravery is taking risks

When asked about bravery, Kelly kept his answer concise: "Bravery, to me, is taking risks to pursue something you believe to be important."

We need to keep exploring the universe

“If humans weren't explorers, a lot of us would still be living in Europe. We wouldn’t even know this continent even existed. This inherent need to press out and see what's over the’s everything. When you try difficult things, what you get out of it is very valuable, even starting with computers. We miniaturized computers so we could put them on the surface of the moon. We didn't miniaturize computers so we could make an iPhone, but that’s one of the auxiliary benefits."

Don't be a "yes-man"

When asked what makes an ideal crew member, Mark knew immediately what he didn't like. "As the commander of a space shuttle flight, I'd get a little say in the matter. And the one thing I don't like, are 'yes-people.' I can agree with myself. I'll actually ask people to question my decisions. Which I think is a good thing, for anybody at any job."

Never lose focus

"The first thing I woke up thinking (in space) was 'uh, what is the flight plan?' because I have to figure out what the first thing I needed to do that day was. Before I went to sleep? 'What is the flight plan? And what do I need to do when I wake up tomorrow."

Sometimes jealousy is okay

Mark's twin brother Scott Kelly is also an astronaut who's currently doing a year-long stint on the International Space Station. When asked if there was any sibling rivalry between the two professional astromen, Kelly admitted there was nothing but love between the two, except for one little thing... "Um, well I'm a little jealous he's in space right now and I'm not."

Wil Fulton is a Staff Writer at Supercompressor. This is the second time he's spoken with Mark Kelly. So they are pretty much best friends. Become his friend, too @WilFulton

Want more of the Culture you actually care about delivered straight to your inbox? Click here to sign up for our daily email.