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ASTRONAUTS MAKE NASA SEE DOUBLE

They look alike, often speak alike and sometimes even wear the same clothes. They're Mark and Scott Kelly, making space history as the first twins selected as NASA astronauts.

The identical twins, both Navy lieutenants and fighter pilots at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., were named Wednesday as members of NASA's Astronaut Class of 1996.They will begin a year of astronaut training this summer at the Johnson Space Center in Houston and then be assigned to fly space shuttles. NASA had never before chosen siblings as astronauts, let alone twins.

"I'm very excited about this, and I feel really fortunate to be accepted," Mark Kelly said. "The added bonus is to get to go down there with my brother."

Responded Scott: "I would concur with everything he said."

It's double pleasure for their parents as well. The 32-year-old brothers are the only children of Richard and Patricia Kelly, retired police officers who live in Flagler Beach, Fla.

"You know what it's like?" Richard Kelly asked. "If I went out and bought a lottery ticket and, gee, it was a winner, and then they flashed up two winning numbers and my wife said, `I bought a lottery ticket and I bought those same numbers.' That's the only thing I could equate it to."

More than 2,400 people applied to become astronauts; 35 were selected. Ten of them, including the Kelly twins, were chosen as shuttle pilot candidates and the rest as mission specialists.

"They have just exactly the qualities we usually look for in the pilot program, and they both came highly regarded," said Duane Ross, manager of NASA's astronaut selection office. "The fact that they're identical twins is inconsequential."

Mark and Scott Kelly look and act so much alike that during their separate interviews with NASA last year, "the same one could have showed up and you'd never know the difference," Ross said.

It's no wonder - they wore the same clothes.

Mark, who is six minutes older, was interviewed first and borrowed Scott's new suit. Scott was interviewed days later and wore the suit, along with the new shoes that Mark had worn for his interview.

Believe it or not, there are differences between the two.

They grew up in West Orange, N.J., dreaming about becoming astronauts, but went to different colleges and studied different kinds of engineering. Both entered the Naval Test Pilot School in 1993 but ended up in different assignments at Patuxent River.

Mark is an instructor pilot for the test pilot school. Scott is a test pilot in the Strike Aircraft Test Squadron.

Both live in Lexington Park, Md., about five miles apart. Both are married and have one child; Mark's daughter is 15 months old, Scott's daughter is 18 months.

How will NASA tell them apart?

"We'll have to get one of them to get a tattoo on their forehead or wear a cap," Ross joked.