Former Astronaut Mark Kelly Announces Campaign for US Senate

Former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly will run for the U.S. Senate in Arizona's special election in 2020. (Image credit: Joe Raedle/Getty)

Former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly announced today (Feb. 12) that he is running for a seat in the U.S. Senate in Arizona. The special election in 2020 will determine who will take over for the late Sen. John McCain and finish out the last two years of the six-year term. 

Kelly, a Democrat, announced his campaign in a video on Twitter in which he spoke about his family, his career and the policy issues that drive him the most, like gun control, affordable health care, job growth and climate change. 

Before he became an astronaut, Kelly was a U.S. Navy captain. From 2001 to 2011, he flew four space shuttle missions. He is also known for his participation in NASA's twin study with his identical brother, Scott Kelly, who spent nearly a year in space while Mark Kelly served as a the "control" back on Earth. The goal of the yearlong study was to examine how long-term spaceflight affects the human body. [Twins in Space: NASA's Mark and Scott Kelly (Photos)]  

Four months before Mark Kelly's fourth and final shuttle mission, his wife, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was shot in the head during a mass shooting that killed six and wounded 12 others at a public event in Tucson, Arizona. 

Kelly and Giffords have since been staunch proponents of gun-control legislation. In 2013, they created a political action committee called Americans for Responsible Solutions to spark a national conversation about "balanced" solutions to gun violence, or solutions that would preserve gun owners' Second Amendment rights while limiting the influencing power of the National Rifle Association (NRA). 

"I learned a lot from being an astronaut. I learned a lot from being a pilot in the Navy. I learned a lot about solving problems from being an engineer. But what I learned from my wife is how you use policy to improve people's lives," Kelly said in the video.

After retiring from NASA to help his wife recover from the shooting, Kelly became a bit of a political activist. But that's not all this former astronaut has been up to in the past eight years. Kelly has authored several children's books, including the "Mousetronaut" series (Simon & Schuster, 2012) and "Astrotwins" (Simon & Schuster, 2016).

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Hanneke Weitering
Contributing expert

Hanneke Weitering is a multimedia journalist in the Pacific Northwest reporting on the future of aviation at and Aviation International News and was previously the Editor for Spaceflight and Astronomy news here at As an editor with over 10 years of experience in science journalism she has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time, Hanneke enjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos.