HomeNewsNASA Astronaut Scott Kelly Tells the Story Behind His Viral Gorilla Suit Moment Aboard the ISS

NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly Tells the Story Behind His Viral Gorilla Suit Moment Aboard the ISS

by Matthew Memrick
(Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)

The backstory behind NASA’s most famous gorilla suit moment on the ISS has come to light, thanks to astronaut Scott Kelly.

Well, the famed social media-obsessed suit was his. Oh, wait. Do you want more?

Retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly decided to send his identical twin brother and astronaut, Scott, a gorilla suit one day. The costume produces a bunch of laughs and some funny video.

A Determined Gorilla Suit Delivery

Scott Kelly, who lived on the International Space Station in 2015-16, told People magazine that his brother called him one day to say he was getting a gorilla suit delivery in the mail. 

Like any typical brother, Scott Kelly asked why. Mark responded, ‘because there’s never been a gorilla in space before.” That’s why.

Arizona senator Mark Kelly’s first attempt went awry as the suit blew up in an uncrewed SpaceX mission in June 2015. But the astronaut bro wasn’t deterred.

Scott recalled the following brotherly phone conversation with another promised gorilla suit on the way. That mission was a success. 

Scott Kelly’s Gorilla Suit Hijinks

So, Scott put on the gorilla suit and lied in wait. He posted a video of his fun back in February 2016, showing him going after British astronaut Tim Peake with a big white bag. Peake reacts by trying to get away in zero gravity.

A Twitter user’s 15-second clip of the incident mistakenly credited Mark Kelly as the culprit.

Scott Kelly was surprised about the internet’s rekindled love for the video but loved the joke’s staying power. He told People that “of course, people liked it” because “how can you not like space gorilla?”

On the other hand, one gorilla costume’s ‘victim’ shared a different story.

Peake called the antic “staged,” saying, “that’s why he’s floating around.” He said the men “wanted it to look funny.” Scott Kelly attributed the gag to it being “the end of his year in space.”

The suit got a few more uses. Some astronauts had no idea about it, and he hid in the station’s sleeping quarters to mess with another guy.

Scott Kelly jumped out at the man and later admitted he was “worried that (he) could have given him a heart attack or something.”

Another gorilla suit moment came at the expense of some Russian astronauts. He added, “they saw it” and “they were just laughing like you wouldn’t believe.” 

The gorilla-wearing astronaut got good use out of the suit, recording an educational video for kids.

Scott Kelly retired soon after his Earth return in 2016. The suit, a valuable space collector item, went in the trash.

NASA’s official story about the gorilla suit was that it was Mark Kelly’s surprise when the men turned 52 on Feb. 21 in 2016. But Scott Kelly’s memory is hazy about that.  

“I don’t remember that,” Scott Kelly said, “but maybe that’s the case.”