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Scott Kelly in gorilla suit
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly floats through the International Space Station in a gorilla suit. (Credit: NASA)

Leave it to Scott Kelly, NASA’s record-holder for longest continuous time spent in space, to go big and go home: While winding down nearly a year in orbit, he donned an ape suit to terrorize a crewmate on the International Space Station.

At least British astronaut Tim Peake looks terrorized: It’s hard to believe he wasn’t in on the joke.

The prank started with the arrival of the gorilla suit – a gag gift from Kelly’s twin brother, Mark, that was sent up on a resupply flight. Scott Kelly climbed into the suit, and then climbed into a soft-sided storage container. NASA video shows Peake strapping down the container in the station’s Destiny lab as commentator Rob Navias narrates the scene.

The next shot shows the suit-wearing Kelly climbing out of the storage container, floating into the module next door, then chasing Peake in zero-G like a batty ape out of hell. Hilarity ensues.

Not everyone was amused. NASA Watch’s Keith Cowing questioned whether the prank was worth the time and resources that were spent on it.

“I am all for making the ISS relevant to the public in new ways and for making childish jokes at NASA’s expense whenever possible,” he wrote. “But given the immense cost of the ISS, its untapped potential for research, and complaints from potential users that there is not enough upmass or crew time, I have to wonder why NASA goes out of its way to highlight such stuff.”

If nothing else, the episode served as a stress-reliever for Kelly during his last scheduled week on the station. He and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko are due to come back to Earth next week in a Soyuz capsule, nearly a year after they left. Their ultra-long-duration mission was meant to help astronauts and scientists understand what’d be involved during even longer missions to Mars and back.

So if the supply manifest for that first Mars mission includes a gorilla suit, we’ll know where the idea came from.

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