Astronaut Dons Ape Suit in Space Station Prank
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly isn't just flying an epic one-year mission in space. He's doing it with a sense of humor.
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly isn't just flying an epic one-year mission in space. He's doing it with a sense of humor. Case in point: this hilarious ape escape video shot on the International Space Station.
In the video, an astronaut in a gorilla suit chases crewmate and British astronaut Tim Peake around Benny Hill-style at super fast speed. And of course, everyone is floating in weightlessness, which only adds to the hilarity.
"Needed a little humor to lighten up a #YearInSpace," Kelly wrote in a Twitter and Facebook post today (Feb. 23). "Go big, or go home. I think I'll do both. #SpaceApe." [Fun in Zero-G: Awesome Weightless Photos]
Now aside from who's wearing the gorilla suit (it's obviously Kelly), the biggest question on our mind is this: Who packs a gorilla suit for a space mission? Thank you, whoever you are. (Again, maybe Kelly?)
Scott Kelly will return to Earth on March 1 after nearly a year in space. He launched to the space station in March 2014 and has been joined on his extra-long flight by Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko as part of an international experiment to study how the human body changes during an ultra-long spaceflight. While Russian cosmonauts did fly yearlong missions on the Mir space station, the voyage by Kelly and Kornienko is the first to study the effects of such a long spaceflight on a genetic level. Scientists have been studying Kelly and his identical twin brother Mark Kelly (also a former NASA astronaut) on Earth to see how prolonged spaceflight changes the human body.
Kelly and Kornienko will return to Earth alongside cosmonaut Sergey Volkov, who is wrapping up a six-month mission on the space station. Meanwhile, NASA astronaut Tim Kopra, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and Tim Peake of the European Space Agency will remain behind on the space station to complete their half-year trip.
Astronaut Scott Kelly Goes Ape
Meet astronaut Scott Kelly (left). His mission is to spend a year on the International Space Station while some friends (such as Terry Virts, right) come and go on typical six-month missions. Spending twice as long as the usual astronaut is no easy feat. It'll be hard on Kelly's body and his loved ones. But NASA says Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko's mission will help add information for a trip to Mars someday. Follow along with some of Kelly's first 100 days in pictures taken by the astronaut himself.
This is Kelly's bedroom. It looks like half of it is being taken up by computers! When Kelly needs a spot to sleep or even just to relax privately, this tiny compartment is it. While the space station is a roomy space to live and work compared to, say, the space shuttle, it goes to show just how limited space is on board. The prime space for the orbiting laboratory is devoted to experiments and storage for food, equipment and other essential supplies.
Think about all the things Kelly is going without for a year: Gravity; casually opening a window or going outside; family. There are definitely sacrifices this father needs to make for his job, but the space station partners make sure at least a few home comforts are available. The astronauts have the Internet on board and can make regular contact with their families. Spacecraft shipments include fresh fruit and personal treats. One recent supply run included the first espresso machine on station, which Kelly is testing here.
A big perk of space exploration is looking out the window -- but even that comes with a price. The astronauts are expected to do regular observations of weather to help satellite observations, especially when a storm or volcanic eruption takes place. Depending on where weather satellites are located, the astronauts might be able to view a quickly changing event faster than the machine can. This is a shot of Tropical Storm Ana in May when it was still in the subtropics. Kelly has also spoken about floods in Texas and ice breaking up in Canada.
In his limited spare time, Kelly does regular outreach activities on Twitter to keep the public interested in what he's doing. Along with NASA, he hosts
where people try to guess which location on Earth is in a picture he posted. And he also puts up selfies of himself, usually on Saturday. These are two selfies taken seconds apart. The yellowy one shows light reflected from bright African desert, while the cooler blue comes from the waters of the Mediterranean.
The big news in space these days is a hiccup in the supplies sent to the International Space Station when three cargo ships from different entities were lost in eight months --
or shortly afterwards. One of those failed supply runs delayed the departure of this Soyuz crew spacecraft (with three people on board) from the space station. But NASA says supplies are holding firm on the station, and Kelly has been calm in messages back to Earth. "Space is hard," he remarked after one of the failures.
This is likely the last picture ever taken from this window on the U.S. Tranquility module, Kelly said on social media. Why? Shortly after Kelly's snapshot here, a couple of his crewmates moved over an orbital closet that blocked the view. It's part of a huge set of renovations going on at the space station right now to get it ready for commercial spacecraft. Around 2017, NASA hopes to replace most of the Russian Soyuz spacecraft seats it uses with American-made spacecraft instead.
On Day 100 of Kelly's mission last week, a Russian Progress supply ship finally made it to the space station. Among the much-needed supplies was this treat for the crew -- some fresh fruit. Kelly called it "Christmas in July" and joked that there are only 250 days to go in his mission, not that he's counting. But once Kelly and Kornienko reach that milestone, they will be part of only a very small group of humans who spent roughly a year in space or longer. (The longest single stay was 437 days by Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov in 1995, aboard space station Mir.)