WEST ORANGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A big celebration was held in West Orange, New Jersey Thursday with the renaming of an elementary school in honor of astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly.
The Pleasantdale Elementary School in West Orange will now be known as the Kelly Elementary School, after astronauts and identical twins Mark and Scott Kelly.READ MORE: New Video Shows Suspected Gunman, Car Used To Flee Scene Of Deadly Bronx Double Shooting
The Kellys grew up as New Jersey kids, and went through the public school system before becoming Navy pilots and NASA astronauts. Both their parents served on the police force, and their mother was the town’s first female officer.
They became the first twins ever both to go into space.
On Thursday, the Kelly brothers were back for a visit, and they got a lot of love from their hometown, CBS2’s Meg Baker reported. The school renaming was unveiled with a countdown just like a space shuttle lift-off.
The Kelly brothers were joined for the occasion by family, including Mark Kelly’s wife, former Arizona U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
“I consider it my hometown, so I tried to stay connected over the years,” Scott Kelly said. “It’s not always easy when you live in Houston, but I always wind up coming back every few years.”
“He needs a vacation,” Mark Kelly said. “He was in space. I didn’t mention this – he just got back. He traveled 200 million miles in 340 days.”
During their joint remarks on the steps of the school Thursday, Mark Kelly joked that he wasn’t always a good student and wasn’t even that good a pilot when he began his training. He recalled his instructor telling him after his first landing on an aircraft carrier: “You’re not very good at this. Are you sure this career is for you?”
The experience pushed him to keep trying, he told students, and he eventually overcame what he described as “a serious lack of aptitude.”
“The guys that did really well that day didn’t go on to become test pilots or astronauts,” he said. “But the guy that really struggled that day — me — did. How good you are at the beginning of anything you try is not a good indicator of how good you can become.”
Scott Kelly’s fifth-grade teacher recalled Patricia Kelly expressing concern during a parent-teacher conference that neither boy had much fear of anything.
“I told her that that lack of fear was more them wanting to know what the world was like,” Susan Posner said.READ MORE: Gov. Hochul: No Known Cases Of New COVID Variant 'Omicron' In New York
Scott Kelly retired in March, shortly after completing a 340-day mission at the International Space Station, the longest single spaceflight by an American. During his mission, he conducted a video chat with students and teachers at the school.
“He opened bag of – I don’t know what it was, I think like M&Ms or something – and he opened it up, and I just saw them when he opened them up, they were just floating everywhere and he was doing like this (picking them out of the air and seating them),” said fifth grader Martius Nicholas.
“Seeing my two favorite astronauts up there, and I actually saw them — Mark looked at me,’ said student Joshua Reger.
Mark, who is also retired, flew four missions on the space shuttle, commanding NASA’s next-to-last shuttle flight in 2011.
He said he hopes their journeys inspire other young ones.
“People going into those fields – science, engineering, math – it’s so important for our economy and for our success and for our competiveness, so if we can just convince one of these kids here today to become a scientist or an engineer, or go into one of those fields, that is a pretty big win,” Mark Kelly said.
And it seems like they have.
“I might want to be an astronaut someday, because I really want to see how it feels to be like in gravity and eat the food they ate,” said student Mia Castillo.
The brothers said what they craved most up in space was spaghetti from their old school’s cafeteria and pizza on Fridays.
Mark and Scott Kelly are both now retired from NASA. May 19 will now be known as Kelly family day.MORE NEWS: CBS2 Weather Headlines: Cold, Gusty Saturday; Light Snow Showers Overnight
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