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Senator Mark Kelly, other former astronauts condemn storming of US Capitol building

Police officers intervene after Trump supporters breached security and entered the Capitol building in Washington, on Jan. 6, 2021.
Police officers intervene after Trump supporters breached security and entered the Capitol building in Washington, on Jan. 6, 2021.
(Image: © Mostafa Bassim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The madness that swept over Capitol Hill on Wednesday afternoon (Jan. 6) drew widespread condemnation, including from some folks who have seen Earth from a perspective-enhancing remove.

Congress began a joint session Wednesday to officially count the votes of the Electoral College, which President-elect Joe Biden carried over President Trump by a count of 306 to 232. Those votes have all been certified by their respective states, so the session should have been a more or less ceremonial one (though some Republican congressmen had announced plans to formally object to the votes from a few states).

The proceedings screeched to a halt almost immediately, however, after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol building in an apparent attempt to prevent or delay Congress' validation of Biden's victory. Congressional leaders were hustled offsite, and other senators and representatives were told to shelter in place as police worked to get the situation under control, NPR reported.

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Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), a former NASA astronaut who, like Biden, was elected this past November, said that such insurrectionist activity has no place in the United States.

"In America, we have fair elections and peaceful transfers of power; democracy prevails over chaos; and those who commit violent acts are held accountable. That won’t change today. This unpatriotic attempt to overturn our election — and silence the voices of Arizonans — will fail," Kelly said via Twitter on Wednesday.

Kelly wasn't the only former spaceflyer to decry Wednesday's spectacle.

"This is not #democracy. Storming and breaching the US Capitol to stop constitutionally mandated action to enact the results of the legal, certified votes of the decisive majority of US citizens is unconscionable, dangerous, anti-American and #sedition," tweeted engineer and physician Mae Jemison, a former NASA astronaut who in 1992 became the first Black woman ever to fly to space.

Garrett Reisman, who launched on two spaceflights during his NASA career, didn't mince words, either.

"This is disgusting and unforgivable. Don’t you dare ‘both sides’ this. It’s in retrospect an inevitable result of the Faustian bargain the @GOP made with Trump — a person they knew could cause exactly what we are all witnessing right now," tweeted Reisman, who is now a consultant for SpaceX and a professor of astronautics practice at the University of Southern California.

Mark Kelly, whose twin brother Scott was also a NASA astronaut, is just the fourth spaceflyer ever to be elected to the U.S. Congress. The others were John Glenn, who served as a Democratic senator from Ohio from 1974 to 1999; Jack Swigert, who was elected to the House as a Colorado Republican in 1982 but died of cancer before he could take office; and Harrison Schmitt, who served as a Republican senator from New Mexico from 1977 to 1983.

Retired NASA astronaut Terry Virts, who flew to space as part of spaceflights STS-130, Soyuz TMA-15M, Expedition 42 and Expedition 43, also shared his thoughts about the events over social media. 

"Today’s events in Washington were acts of terrorism & insurrection, encouraged by the President, 12 Senators and 126 Representatives who fanned the flames of falsehoods that led to this violence. America is better than this- now let’s show the world how our democracy will prevail," Virts said on Twitter

Other astronauts alluded to the events less directly over social media. For instance, retired NASA astronaut Leland Melvin, who flew as part of the missions STS-129 and STS-122, shared a peaceful message on Twitter. 

"Seemed like a few good ones today. Youngbloods be kind and know your history. Be safe out there. Much Peace," Melvin said on Twitter alongside an image of two quotes from Irish philosopher Edmund Burke. 

The Edmund Burke quotes shared by Melvin include" 

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing," and "Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it." 

Editor's Note: This piece was updated on Jan. 7, 2021 to include additional statements from other astronauts. 

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook. 

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