School in twin astronauts’ hometown renamed in their honor
A New Jersey school is so proud of two of its most famous alumni that it's taking their name.
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.
Both brothers attended a ceremony at the school Thursday, along with family members including Gabrielle Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman who is married to Mark Kelly.
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.
Mark flew four missions on the space shuttle, commanding NASA's next-to-last shuttle flight in 2011. He also is retired. Both brothers are Navy veterans and former test pilots.
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."
The Kellys grew up and attended public schools in West Orange, a town about 15 miles west of New York City whose residents have included several former governors, inventor Thomas Edison and songwriter Carole King.
Both their parents served on the police force, and their mother was the town's first female officer.
On Thursday, 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.
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