On July 9 2022, Twitter account @latestinspace shared a video and a popular claim that “Astronaut Mark Kelly once smuggled a full gorilla suit aboard the International Space Station”:
One day later, a Reddit account shared the claim on to r/AbruptChaos:
Both posts received significant engagement on their respective platforms. On Twitter, a follow-up correction about the purported astronaut in the video was far less visible:
At the top of the thread on r/AbruptChaos, a moderator pinned a comment regarding the accuracy of the title of the video. It read in part:
We’ve got a ton of reports here cause people think this is a fake title/ misinformation.
The title, while a bit misleading, is more true than not.
That moderator linked to a January 12 2022 Newsweek.com item about a previously circulating version of the claim. A section titled “The Facts” clarified the identity of the man in the gorilla suit aboard the ISS:
It is true that former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly once arranged for a gorilla suit to be sent aboard the ISS.
However, the social media posts imply that the suit had been “smuggled” on board by Mark Kelly and that it was Mark Kelly who had worn it. This is not the case.
Mark Kelly, who retired from NASA in 2011, has a twin brother, Scott Kelly, also a former astronaut. Scott Kelly retired in 2016.
Scott Kelly was on board the ISS on his birthday on February 21, 2016, as part of a mission shortly before his retirement from the space agency.
A link to a NASA.gov page (“Space Station 20th: Celebrating Birthdays on ISS”) was in the text of the article. On that page, NASA described a litany of birthday celebrations on the ISS, and explained:
To surprise astronaut Scott J. Kelly for his Feb. 21, 2016, birthday during his one-year mission aboard ISS, his twin brother astronaut Mark E. Kelly arranged for the delivery of a life-size gorilla costume to the station. In addition to some mild-mannered shenanigans while wearing the gorilla costume that he posted to social media, such as chasing fellow Expedition 46 crewmember Timothy N. Peake through the Destiny module, Kelly also recorded some educational videos dressed in the non-standard garb.
A long-circulating clip and claim held that “Astronaut Mark Kelly once smuggled a full gorilla suit aboard the International Space Station,” and that later “without anyone knowing, he put it on.” In actuality, the astronaut was Scott Kelly, not Mark Kelly. Mark Kelly had “arranged for the delivery of a life-size gorilla costume to the [ISS]”; as his brother was surprised by the costume, he clearly had not “smugggled” it aboard the ISS. Although the clip showed Mark Kelly’s brother Scott in a gorilla suit aboard the ISS, the suit was not smuggled onto the station. Finally, Kelly did not surprise others with it; rather he was surprised by it.