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Buzz Lightyear's out-of-this-world 'toy story' told by boy's space patch

Buzz Lightyear poses with Adam Carr, 11, and the patch Carr designed for the space ranger's real space trip. (Disney)
June 21, 2010

— In Disney's "Toy Story 3," which opened in theaters over the weekend, Buzz Lightyear once again faces identity issues between being a real space ranger or being a toy. For at least one 11-year-old fan who designed the mission patch for Lightyear's real-life space adventure, the answer must seem clear: the animated astronaut is in fact, both.

Before Lightyear returned to the silver screen, his likeness — as drawn by Adam Carr of Tampa, Florida — returned to Earth last month aboard the final planned flight of NASA's space shuttle Atlantis.

Carr was the winner of a NASA and Disney art contest to create a patch for space ranger Buzz Lightyear, who — in action figure form — logged 468 days orbiting the planet. Between May 2008 and September 2009, the 12-inch toy floated onboard the International Space Station as part of an educational partnership between the space agency and the entertainment company.

Announced last October, the patch design contest invited children in grades two through six to create an emblem for Lightyear's mission to the orbiting laboratory. The winning artist would receive a Disney Parks vacation and be given his/her patch after it flew to the space station.

Carr, who is home-schooled, came across the contest as part of his studies.

"I had been studying about astronomy and the space program all last year, so I was researching online and I found the contest and decided to do it," explained Carr in an interview with collectSPACE. "My patch design took about a week to do — to find a design that I liked and then put the real thing on a piece of paper."

Carr's blue and yellow hand-drawn design was selected as the winner in January. On May 14, five patches featuring his artwork in embroidered form launched on Atlantis with the crew of STS-132. The mission was led by commander Ken Ham, who previously piloted the shuttle that took the Buzz Lightyear action figure to space two years earlier.

Adam Carr's winning Buzz Lightyear patch. (collectSPACE)

Carr described his patch to collectSPACE as he waited at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to watch Atlantis lift off for the space station.

"The S-T-S-one-two-four and the S-T-S-one-two-eight each represent the mission names that Buzz went up and down on from the International Space Station," he said referring to the STS-124 and STS-128 inscriptions at the top of and bottom of the patch.

"The International Space Station shows where he went," Carr continued. "The 15 stars represent the 15 months he was up there and the three stripes represent the astronaut office."

The five flown patches were among just 500 produced to be presented to students who participated in the contest and to others involved with flying the Buzz Lightyear toy. Carr, who was given several of the patches before Atlantis launched, gave one to the larger-than-life-size Lightyear during a visit to Disney's Magic Kingdom.

Carr will receive one of the flown patches, which returned to Earth after orbiting the Earth 186 times over the course of 12 days.

A self-described Buzz Lightyear fan who has had his own toy space ranger since he was one year old, Carr said that seeing the mission patch he designed fly was exciting.

"I think it is a real honor and it will be really nice to frame [the flown patch] and hang it somewhere in the house," he said.

Carr, and children of all ages, can relive Buzz Lightyear's flight to the International Space Station through a series of "Mission Logs" included as bonus features on Disney's "Toy Story and Toy Story 2 Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack" released in March. Produced in collaboration with NASA, the segments feature Buzz Lightyear together with other characters from the computer-animated films narrating the videos that were filmed of the action figure floating aboard the station.

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