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The bizarre story of how a gorilla suit was smuggled onto the ISS


Scott Kelly dressed as a gorilla aboard the ISS (Nasa)

If you’ve ever wondered what astronauts do in their downtime aboard the International Space Station, we have the answer for you.

They dress up in a gorilla suit and scare the bejesus out of their crewmates.

At least, that’s what Nasa astronaut Scott Kelly did back in 2016 when he was aboard the orbiting space lab with non other than Britain’s Tim Peake.

Although a few years old, the story was brought back into the limelight this week when footage of Kelly drifiting about in the suit was shared on Twitter by filmmaker Todd Spence.

Subsequently retweeted over 20,000 times, Spence’s tweet gets a couple of things wrong – but it does capture the goofy side of usually-very-serious business of being an astronaut.

You’ve got to pass the time somehow…(Credits: EPA)

‘Astronaut Mark Kelly once smuggled a full gorilla suit on board the International Space Station,’ Todd tweeted. ‘He didn’t tell anyone about it. One day, without anyone knowing, he put it on.’

In actual fact it was Mark’s identical twin brother Scott that wore the suit. And he didn’t exactly smuggle it aboard. It was sent as a care package to him by Mark (also an astronaut) who was down on Earth at the time.

The gorilla suit was sent up on a resupply mission while Scott was aboard the ISS for a year in space. And after climbing into a soft-side storage container that was checked by Tim Peake, the video subsequently shows the first Brit aboard the space station being chased around by Kelly in full monkey mode.

‘Needed a little humor to lighten up a #YearInSpace. Go big, or go home. I think I’ll do both. #SpaceApe,’ Kelly tweeted at the time.

While Peake spent six months aboard the ISS, Kelly spent a total of 340 days in space. That amounted to 5,000 orbits around the Earth.

The purpose of his time aboard the space station was to study what effects prolonged time in space had on the human body. He was measured against Mark, his twin, who remained on Earth.

Mark agreed to take part in many of the same medical experiments as his orbiting sibling.

Using data collected from both men before, during and after the 340-day mission, US scientists carried out 10 separate investigations.

Their findings, published in the journal Science, detail the human health impact of Nasa’s longest human spaceflight, with several changes identified in Scott which were not seen in his brother.

Scott Kelly (R), was the Expedition 45/46 commander during his one-year mission aboard the International Space Station, along with his twin brother, former astronaut Mark Kelly (L). (AFP)

Some of these effects persisted after his time in space but many subsided in the following six months.

‘Given that the majority of the biological and human health variables remained stable, or returned to baseline, after a 340-day space mission, these data suggest that human health can be mostly sustained over this duration of spaceflight,’ the authors wrote.

The experiment was Nasa’s first stab at a one-year spaceflight, a predecessor for Mars expeditions that would last two to three times as long.

Mark Kelly, meanwhile, has gone on to become the senator for the US state of Arizona.


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