Astronaut Twins Mark and Scott Kelly Scramble Earth's Lights in Alexa Super Bowl Ad

A new Amazon advertisement, which aired during yesterday's Super Bowl (Feb. 3), shows twin astronaut brothers Scott Kelly and Mark Kelly accidentally causing worldwide power blips in an event nicknamed "The Incident."

Near the end of the 90-second ad, Scott Kelly floats over to a panel on the International Space Station as he listens to Amazon's "Alexa" automated virtual-assistant service say, "Powering up, powering down, powering up, powering down."

"She says she's doing it, but I don't see anything," the astronaut yells. "Do you?" [As Seen on TV: These Commercials Were Filmed in Space!]

From outside, Mark Kelly is shown on a spacewalk. He looks down at the Earth and sees the alarming sight of entire regions full of lights turning on, then turning off, then turning on, then turning off. "Holy …" he remarks.

The ad doesn't make it clear if the Kelly brothers (who, in real life, both retired from NASA after an extensive list of missions, including Scott Kelly's nearly yearlong stay on the International Space Station) were responsible for the fictional scenario. At the beginning, two people in an Amazon cafeteria chat about the challenges of implementing Alexa in various platforms. "Then there was The Incident," a woman employee says. "Wait, that was you guys?" asks a male colleague. The woman responds, "I don't know. Was it?"

The woman admits to several "fails" with the Alexa beta-testing program, which the commercial also portrays. Harrison Ford — known by space geeks for his roles in "Blade Runner" and "Star Wars" — struggles with a version of Alexa embedded in his dog's collar. Every time the dog barks, Alexa orders more dog food. Ford yells at the dog and chases it up the stairs, insisting that the dog pay for the order. After several large bags of dog food quickly arrive at the door, Ford mutters to the guilty dog, "I'm not talking to you."

Then, there was the Alexa embedded in a toothbrush. Forest Whitaker — who featured prominently in 2016's alien flick "Arrival" — orders Alexa to play a podcast. All goes well until the actor puts the toothbrush in his mouth, which muffles the sound and causes him to lose track of the conversation. "I guess I'm going back to earbuds," the star lamented on Twitter.

"Not everything makes the cut," Amazon says in the commercial's tagline. 

The commercial first ran on Jan. 30 as part of a Super Bowl blitz, just one day before Amazon reported its third record profit in a row, citing Alexa as key to the company's improved performance, according to The Guardian

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: