October 9, 2010 Leave a comment
Being selected to the NASA’s astronaut corps is an EXTREMELY selective process; of the thousands of men and women who have applied to the program since its inception in the 1960s, only 339 have been accepted. Only 339. That’s not even enough people to fill all the seats in the House of Representatives. Of course, NASA has every reason to be super selective, the job is high-risk, high-profile, and high-intensity; in fact, 24 of those 339 astronuats (~7%) have died in mission- or training-related accidents.
While NASA’s astronaut program has been fairly diverse, including men and women from 14 different countries other than the US with many different degrees and backgrounds (both military and civilian), the program currently has two active members who are the least diverse that any two people can be. That’s right, NASA has a pair of twins as astronauts. It makes sense though, if one of the identical brothers has the “Right Stuff”, it makes sense that his twin would too. I wonder if they just photocopied all of their application materials and handed in two sets. Could you imagine if one got in and the other didn’t? That’d be an awkward family dinner. How do you even begin to explain that one to your brother, “Yeah, so I know we’re identical, but NASA says I’m going to space and you’re not, sorry.” Luckily for Scott and Mark Kelly of Orange, New Jersey (wooo Jersey!), that wasn’t the case and both were accepted into the program back in 1996. Prior to Astronaut selection, both Mark and Scott served over a decade as pilots in the U.S. Navy. To date they are the only twins who have both traveled in space, but never together, at least not yet; if NASA’s final shuttle launches work out the way they plan, then Mark will join his brother Scott (currently in orbit) on the International Space Station sometime next year. Not only that, but Mark’s is the first NASA astronaut to fly in space while married to a member of U.S. Congress, his wife Gabrielle Giffords is the Representative for Arizona’s 8th Congressional District.
Pretty cool huh? I think we need to thank and congratulate Mr. and Mrs. Richard and Patricia Kelly of West Orange, NJ for giving birth to 0.6% of the astronauts who have ever been selected by NASA. Impressive.