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Jill Biden gifts Scott Kelly with beer, apple pie on return to U.S.

By Andrew V. Pestano Follow @AVPLive9 Contact the Author   |   March 3, 2016 at 7:56 AM
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HOUSTON, March 3 (UPI) -- NASA astronaut Scott Kelly returned to his Houston home early Thursday to reunite with his family and receive gifts of beer and apple pie from second lady Dr. Jill Biden.

Kelly, 52, was greeted by his two daughters, father Richard Kelly, girlfriend Amiko Kauderer and identical twin brother Mark Kelly, retired astronaut.

"It's great to be back in Texas, on U.S. soil. It's just an unbelievable feeling to be back here on planet Earth, back in our great country, and back with all my family and friends," Kelly said at after arriving at a Texas hangar. "I also want to say this was not my flight. They've talked about my year in space, it's not my achievement, it's NASA's achievement and it's our country's achievement.

"This is the biggest team sport there is" Kelly said.

Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko returned to Earth Wednesday after spending nearly a year in space on the International Space Station.The Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft capsule carrying Kelly, Kornienko and Russian crew member Sergey Volkov landed in Kazakhstan at 10:26 a.m. Wednesday, or 11:26 p.m. ET Tuesday.

Kelly and Kornienko's 340-day stay in the ISS is about twice the length of a normal deployment and was part of a study to determine the effects of long-term spaceflight on the human body. Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and Biden were also there in Houston to greet Kelly.

"On behalf of President Obama, our first lady Michelle Obama, our vice president my husband and all Americans, I want to congratulate you on your year in space and you truly are an inspiration to all of us," Biden said before she presented gifts to Kelly. "I brought you some beer and apple pie, nothing's more American than that ...The beer is from the president actually. And the apple pie is just from all Americans. So we hold you in our hearts. Welcome home."

Before arriving in Houston, Kelly spoke on the phone with President Barack Obama, who thanked Kelly for his service and for sharing his journey with the world through socil media. Obama said Kelly's contribution to scientific research will allow the United States to successfully send American astronauts to Mars in the 2030s.

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