Twins in Outer Space

(Posted April, 1999; Updated Feb. 6, 2003) Twins. We’re everywhere. In every country on the planet, every state in the union, every city and every county. We come in all shapes and sizes, colors, creeds and political orientations. But we’ve never conquered the final frontier, space. Until now.

Meet Mark and Scott Kelly, 38-year-old twin brothers who were born in West Orange, New Jersey, and who grew up in Orange, New Jersey who are both now undergoing NASA Astronaut training in Houston. From December 19-27, 1999 Scott J. Kelly became the first twin to fly as a Shuttle Astronaut as he joined his Discovery Space Shuttle Crew in a mission which serviced the Hubble Space Telescope.

Mark Kelly's Space Shuttle Endeavour Patch
Mark Kelly’s Shuttle Patch

It took another two years, but his brother Mark E. Kelly joined his brother and became half of the first set of twins to both fly into space when he piloted the Space Shuttle Endeavour in a mission in December, 2001.

After the tragedy of the Space Shuttle Columbia mission on February 1, 2003, the future plans for Shuttle launches is unknown, but both Kelly Twins were scheduled to return to space by 2004.

The two brothers haven’t always followed each other’s footsteps (“two giant steps for twin-kind?”). Mark completed his undergraduate studies at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in New York and then earned a master of science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1994. Scott earned a bachelor of science degree from the State University of New York Maritime College in 1987 and a master of science degree in aviation systems from the University of Tennessee in 1996. In April of that year they were both selected as two of just 35 men and women by NASA as Astronaut candidates (out of 3,500 people who had tried to join the ranks of NASA Astronauts).

Scott KellyMark Kelly
Scott (L) and Mark (R) Kelly

Mark told in a 1999 interview (Scott was a little busy preparing for his trip into space…) that the two brothers fought continuously as youngsters.

“We were competitive growing up, but not so much between us,” Mark Kelly said. “We never really discussed ending up together in the same occupation, nor was it a goal. We did have similar interests.”

Scott’s Shuttle Mission training before his 1999 launch took about seven months. The two brothers did see each other frequently during training and Mark obviously was able to ask Scott for some advice before his first Shuttle Mission trip.

Scott Kelly's Space Shuttle Discovery Patch
Scott Kelly’s Shuttle Patch

Although they have earned a little notoriety as the first twin Astronauts, the brothers don’t feel there is much significance to the fact that they will become the first twins in space. And Mark doesn’t feel that he and his brother Scott will necessarily fly together in a future Shuttle Mission . “I was hired to do a job for NASA. My personal interests do not influence my professional duties as an Astronaut.”

And Mark carried the twin bond a little further than his brother as he is married to a twin, the former Amelia Victoria Babis of Roscommon, Michigan. Scott wasn’t interested in pairing up with Amelia’s fraternal twin brother and is happily married to the former Leslie S. Yandell of Atlanta, Georgia.

Incidentally, Scott Kelly was not the first twins in space. That honor was recorded by Charlie Duke who was the 10th man to walk on the moon during the Apollo 16 space mission on April 16, 1972.

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