Fact Check: Did an Astronaut Smuggle a Gorilla Suit Onto the International Space Station?

The International Space Station (ISS) has been continuously occupied since the year 2000, according to NASA, and a number of astronauts have had their birthday while on board.

But just because an astronaut is in space doesn't mean they can't have some fun on their birthdays, and over the years some wacky celebrations have taken place.

The Claim

In recent days, a video clip purportedly showing a person in a gorilla suit emerging from a bag on the ISS has circulated on social media.

In the clip, the person proceeds to float through an ISS corridor and also appears to chase a fellow astronaut.

In many cases the clip is accompanied with the exact same caption, which reads: "Astronaut Mark Kelly once smuggled a full gorilla suit on board the International Space Station. He didn't tell anyone about it. One day, without anyone knowing, he put it on."

The clip has received hundreds of thousands of likes on Twitter and has been posted by several users on Reddit, where it has also gained hundreds of thousands of upvotes.

The Facts

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.

To surprise him, Mark Kelly arranged for the delivery of the gorilla suit, according to NASA. Scott Kelly later shared a video from the ISS of himself bursting out of a bag dressed in the gorilla suit, and proceeding to chase U.K. astronaut Tim Peake, of the ISS mission Expedition 46, around the station.

"Needed a little humor to lighten up a year in space," Scott Kelly wrote in a caption to the video on Facebook. "Go big or go home. I think I'll do both!" He later recorded an educational video from the ISS while dressed in the suit.

In previous years birthday celebrations on the ISS have involved astronauts dressing as pirates and arranging for a saxophone to be sent aboard.

The Ruling

Fact Check - Mostly True

Mostly True.

It is true that an astronaut once had a gorilla suit on board the ISS. However the astronaut in question did not illicitly smuggle it aboard, nor was the wearer Mark Kelly, as popular social media posts have recently stated.


Scott Kelly gorilla suit
A snippet from a video of Scott Kelly floating through the International Space Station in a gorilla suit in 2016. The video has been widely shared on social media recently. Facebook/Scott Kelly