It’s April Fool’s Day, which means you’re likely about to be glitter bombed or jump-scared by the most dangerous people in the world – those you love and trust the most. Don’t even think of trying to get off-world to escape their mischief, however: Astronauts aren’t exactly averse to pulling off pranks themselves.
Here’s a selection of silliness played out aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and elsewhere in our planetary neighborhood. You could say – as people have said countless times in the past – these pranks are out of this world, quite literally. (Sorry.)
1 – Unauthorized Spacewalk
Back on April Fool’s Day 2010, three astronauts aboard the ISS sent a shot of themselves, sans spacesuits, outside the Cupola to Mission Control. Despite the horrific lack of oxygen, heat, and anything resembling habitability out there, the expressions on their faces suggest that they’re pretty chilled about it.
The trio of pranksters – NASA’s Timothy Creamer, Japan’s Soichi Noguchi, and cosmonaut Oleg Kotov – rose a few giggles from the folks back home, according to Space.com. Their “spacewalk” certainly had the opposite effect to one that took place this very year, when a record-setting prolonged venture on the ISS’s exterior culminated with a critical communications antenna being put in the wrong place.
2 – Packaged Astronaut
Back in 2017, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, up aboard the ISS, decided that she wanted to give her Russian crewmates a bit of a scare. There aren’t many places to hide up there in such a confined space, so she enlisted the help of fellow astronauts Shane Kimbrough (NASA) and Thomas Pesquet (ESA) to pack her into a cargo bag.
Thrown into their module, the cosmonauts were clearly fairly surprised when an American astronaut burst forth, like a Jack-in-the-Box in microgravity. Although not particularly scary at the end of the day, it was enormously adorable.
3 – Space Gorilla
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly’s identical twin – yes, they’re still identical twins – Mark, plotted what is arguably the most coordinated, long-distance prank in history. Sending up a gorilla suit on a resupply flight to his ISS-based brother, Scott quickly donned it and concealed himself in another one of those soft-sided storage containers.
As ESA astronaut Tim Peake was strapping it down, the space gorilla emerged and – as is documented by some glorious official NASA video – pursues his British spacefarer around the ISS. Some commentators at the time wondered if this was the best use of time and money for the venerable space agency, but we’d suggest that such a minor jovial episode was well worth it for its inherent ludicrousness.