The identical veteran astronaut twins Mark and Scott Kelly have received many honors over their years with NASA, but here's a new one: The West Orange, New Jersey, elementary school they attended will be re-named after them.
Scott Kelly returned from 340 days in space earlier this month, marking the longest stretch an American astronaut has continuously lived in space (and the largest cumulative total for time spent in space among Americans, after counting his other spaceflight experience). His twin brother, Mark, flew on four space shuttle missions and commanded two, including the final flight of the space shuttle Endeavor.
The duo grew up in West Orange and attended elementary, junior high and high school in the town, and the West Orange Board of Education unanimously approved the idea to re-name Pleasantdale Elementary School to celebrate the astronauts' legacy. [Astronaut Scott Kelly's 12 Best Photos from His Year in Space]
"It is not often that a community is able to recognize and honor native sons who both fit the definitions of 'hero and pioneer' in perpetuity so that generations to come will know where such accomplished individuals had their beginnings," Laura Lab, president of the city's board of education, said in a statement. "Those beginnings helped mold them into the adults they have grown to be and at the same time offer our current students role models who can literally guide our children that they, too, can reach for the stars."
The West Orange Board of Education will choose the new name from among five proposed by Pleasantdale students and teachers, and it will be officially announced during a ceremony May 19.
"Being both a journalist who closely covered Mark's and Scott's spaceflights and a fellow graduate of the West Orange school system, I think it is great that our elementary school is being re-named for them," said Robert Pearlman, editor of collectSPACE.com, a space-history news website, and a Space.com contributing writer. "I was in kindergarten at Pleasantdale when Mark and Scott graduated from the high school across the street, so I literally grew up following in their footsteps. Now that they are both veteran NASA astronauts, I can only imagine the inspiration they will provide as students attend the school bearing their names."
Scott will officially retire from NASA April 1, but he and his (also retired) twin will continue to provide data for their year-in-space twins study. The analysis compared changes to Scott's genome after his stay on the space station to changes in Mark's, who stayed home. They are the only set of twins to both fly in space.