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Buzz Lightyear, mission mementos returning to Earth (STS-128 OFK)

September 9, 2009

— Space shuttle Discovery undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) Tuesday with six NASA astronauts, one European Space Agency (ESA) mission specialist and a Star Command Space Ranger for the trip back to Earth.

Yes, that's right, Buzz Lightyear is on his way home.

The animated astronaut has been on a real space mission in the form of a 12-inch tall action figure since launching last year aboard Discovery's STS-124 mission, as part of an educational partnership between NASA and the Walt Disney Company.

Buzz is returning with the STS-128 crew, including space station flight engineer Tim Kopra who spent 44 days living on the ISS. By comparison, Lightyear will have logged 467 days in space, assuming that the weather in Florida does not delay his scheduled landing on Thursday evening.

That is a record, says Disney, pointing out that Lightyear's stay surpasses the longest duration space mission set in 1995 by Russian cosmonaut Valery Polyakov by a month.

During his time on-board the station, with the help of his crewmates, Lightyear has been the star of recorded videos that are aimed at exciting children about spaceflight, while teaching them the basics of working in weightlessness.

A similar goal is shared for other items returning with the STS-128 astronauts. Although in space for less time than Buzz, just 13 days, the astronauts each packed items to thank those who supported them while helping promote the role space exploration plays back on Earth.

Toys and games

Buzz Lighyear is not the only toy aboard Discovery.

STS-128 pilot Kevin Ford, making his first flight, brought a seven-inch model of the space shuttle for his elementary school and as a Hoosier, a model car for the Indianopolis Motor Speedway in Indiana.

Swedish astronaut Christer Fuglesang, who coincidentally combined both of Ford's items in the form of candy he flew for his crewmates, chose among his mementos a chess piece for the Swedish Chess Academy.

The wood-carved knight, like the shuttle and car models, were stowed inside the STS-128 Official Flight Kit, a duffle bag-sized container of souvenirs flown at the request of the astronauts and the space agency. The items it carries remain out of reach of the crew for the length of the flight.

Which is why Fuglesang, who also flew a mini frisbee, was unable to best his own record on this mission. Once a Swedish national frisbee champion, Fuglesang on his first flight in 2006 set a record for "time aloft" by floating a spinning frisbee for 20 seconds aboard the ISS.

With his chess piece and frisbee out of reach, Fuglesang devised other means of sharing a game from space.

>Challenging the public to a chess match, Fuglesang built a board on the back page of mission checklist.

"I needed some kind of chess board and so I made it out of Velcro for myself," he explained in a pre-flight interview with collectSPACE. Using blue and yellow hook-and-latch squares, Fuglesang affixed paper pieces that he moved in response to e-mailed challenges.

As of Wednesday, the Swedish media was reporting that Fuglesang's rook, guarding his queen, might be in trouble.

"I am kind of a good amateur player," Fuglesang said of his own abilities. "When I was a teenager, I played for two years in a club and did a bit of competition, but I never raised above average."

Flying the flag

Fuglesang is not flying the white flag to surrender just yet, though the completion of his chess match, which began before he launched, may not come until after he lands. He is however, flying the Swedish flag.

The blue and yellow banner, which is also featured on the STS-128 crew's mission patch, is among a collection of flags inside the Official Flight Kit.

"I am flying a couple of flags," shared Jose Hernandez, whose family were Mexican migrant workers. "One is for a squadron from Mexico that participated in World World II. They asked me to fly their squadron's flag. I am flying a Mexican flag that I will present to President Calderon when I return."

Danny Olivas, who like Hernandez is a mission specialist of Mexican descent, chose to highlight another country's role in his youth.

"The country of Bhutan and my alma mater, University of Texas at El Paso, share an affiliation. The architecture at UTEP is all Bhutanese architecture and so the country, their government, and UT El Paso have a pretty close relationship and so in discussions with the folks at UTEP and with representatives of the country, we were able to get a flag."

Ford, in addition to packing models, brought a flag for one of his schools, the Air Force Institute of Technology.

"Although they have graduated many astronauts, I do not think they had ever had anything ever offered to them. So I am flying their flag and they are going to hang it back in their entry way and make a little note underneath about their contribution to the astronaut corps," said Ford.

For astronaut Pat Forrester the chance to fly a flag was even more personal.

"During the training for this flight, my father passed away. He was my biggest fan, loved space, loved NASA. So he was 30 years with the military, a West Pointer just like me and he was buried at Arlington [Cemetery] in September. And the honor guard that did his service, I am flying their guidon and will present that back to them when I get back, just a way of thanking them for the way that they honored him in his burial."


As Forrester mentioned, the crew members will embark on tours of the country, and to Sweden and other international destinations, to return the items they flew.

"Hopefully, [these items] will serve as motivation for kids and for people who are part of the organization that once presented to them, will say 'Hey, if they did it, why can't I do it?'" said Hernandez.

One such opportunity is set for early October when Disney plans a ticker-tape parade at the Magic Kingdom in Florida to welcome Buzz Lightyear back to Earth, together with several of his NASA space station crewmates.


Buzz Lightyear aboard space shuttle Discovery (Disney/NASA)

Astronaut Christer Fuglesang with his Velcro chess board. (ESA)

The STS-128 Official Flight Kit Manifest

The following is the STS-128 Official Flight Kit manifest, as provided by NASA. Inventory numbers that are missing indicate items that were removed prior to launch.

No.   Description   Sponsor/Purpose



  1. 625 STS-128 crew patches

  2. 75 Expedition 21 patches


Agency Presentation



800 Small United States Flags


Agency Presentation



5 Sets U.S. States & Territories Flags


Agency Presentation



5 Sets United Nations Members Flags


Agency Presentation



  1. 20 Small Texas Flags

  2. 5 Small NASA Flags

  3. 5 Small POW/MIA Flags

  4. 5 NASA Patches

  5. 2 Texas Lapel Pins

  6. 1 Bronze NASA Seal Medallion

  7. 1 Silver Shuttle Pendant


Agency Presentation



Small Flags of the Following States:

  1. 10 California

  2. 10 Texas

  3. 10 Indiana

  4. 10 Virginia


Agency Presentation



Small Flags of the Following Countries:

  1. 20 Mexico

  2. 10 Isle of Man

  3. 5 Sweden

  4. 2 Bhutan

  5. 2 Norway

  6. 2 Denmark

  7. 2 Finland


Agency Presentation



10 Each Small Military Flags:

  1. U.S. Air Force

  2. U.S. Army

  3. U.S. Coast Guard

  4. U.S. Marine Corps

  5. U.S. Navy


Agency Presentation



  1. 10 Small United States Flags

  2. 10 Small Alabama State Flags


Marshall Space Flight Center Presentation



  1. 10 Small Louisiana State Flags

  2. 10 Small Mississippi State Flags

  3. 5 Small NASA Flags

  4. 5 Small United States Flags


Stennis Space Center Presentation



  1. 2 Small United States Flags

  2. 2 Small Florida State Flags


Kennedy Space Center Presentation



140 Silver Snoopy Pins


Space Flight Awareness Presentation




25 EVA Patches


Agency Presentation



  1. 10 STS-128 Crew Patches

  2. 10 Small U.S. flags

  3. 10 DoD Space Test Program Patches

  4. 10 Det 3 Human Spaceflight Support Office Commander Coins

  5. 100 HICO-RAIDS Payload Decals


DoD Presentation



20 Constellation Pins


Constellation Program Office Presentation




25 COD Patches


Center Operations Directorate Presentation




25 Mission Operations Patches


Mission Operation Directorate Presentation


Items 18 through 64 are manifested at the request of the STS-128 crewmembers.




35"x56" Gold and Navy Flag


Patriot Guard Riders, Houston, TX




36"x60" State Flag


Indiana State Senate, Indianapolis, IN




48"x72" Navy and Gold Flag


Air Force Institute of Technology, West Point, NY




2.5" Green Ceramic Airplane


Nortre Dame Aerospace Engineering, Notre Dame, IN




Gold "Class of 1978" Medallion with Ribbon


Blackford High School, Hartford City, IN




South Bend Radio Control Patch


South Bend American Model Assoc., South Bend, IN




7.5" White "B" Band Letter


Blackford Bands, Hartford City, IN




2.5" Red Model Car


Indianopolis Motor Speedway, Speedway, IN




7"x5" White Space Shuttle Model


Montpelier Elementary School, Montpelier, IN




4"x5" Indiana State Flag


City of Montpelier, Montpelier, IN




Gold Class of 1979 Medallion


U.S. Military Academy, West Point, NY




19.5"x29.5" Navy and White Pennant


The Old Guard, Arlington, VA




6.5"x6.5" Metal Airplane Hardware


Mission Aviation Fellowship, Nampa, ID




Gold Unit Medallion


4th Battallion, 3rd Aviation Regiment, Savannah, GA




Blue and White Stripe Square Unit Patch


3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, GA




6"x8" Orange Plastic Plaque


University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA




Black, White and Red Team Jersey


The Durban Sharks, Durban, South Africa




Gold Astros "Defending Freedom" Medallion


Houston Astros, Houston, TX




36"x51" Maroon and White Flag


Wounded Warrior Foundation, Arlington, VA




23"x26" Green, White and Red Flag


Survivors of Squadron 201, Mexico City, Mexico




City Lapel Pin


City of Stockton, CA




35"x57" Red, Black and White School Flag


University of the Pacific, Stockton, CA




Red, White and Blue Ribbon


League of United Latin American Citizens, Stockton, CA




37"x60" Orange, Gold and White Flag


Kingdom of Bhutan, Bhutan




36"x60" Green and White School Banner


Dr. Walter Cooper Academy, Rochester, NY




Congressional Medallion


16th Congressional District, Washington, DC




13"x19" Green, Gold and Navy Pennant


U.S. Border Patrol Museum, El Paso, TX




17.5"x22" Purple and White Chapter Pennant


Alzheimer's Association National Office, Chicago, IL




9"x11" Purple and Silver Chapter Pennant


Alzheimer's Assoc., Houston and Southeast Chapter, TX




13"x15" Maroon Centennial Seal Felt Piece


Drew School, San Francisco, CA




36"x60" White and Blue Flag


National Renewable Energy Lab, Golden, CO




36"x60" Green and White Banner


Oyster-Adams Bilingual School, Washington, DC




36"x60" White and Blue Flag


HENAAC, Los Angeles, CA




Silver Carved Spoon


Sametinget, Kiruna, Sweden




9.5"x15" Black and Gold Pennant


Kungliga Operan, Stockholm, Sweden




Nobel Peace Prize Medallion Replica


Norsk Romsenter, Oslo, Norway




24"x36" Navy, Blue and Gold Team Flag


Djurgardens IF Football, Stockholm, Sweden




4.5" Round Yellow Felt Piece


CERN, Geneva, Switzerland




6"x9" White Swedish Olympic Pennant


Sveriges Olympiska Kommitte, Stockholm, Sweden




Gold "Christoph Polhern" Medallion


Sveriges Ingenjorer, Stockholm, Sweden




2"x5" Carved Wooden Knight Chess Piece


Svenska Schackakademien, Stockholm, Sweden




"Wargentin" Medal


Kungliga Vetenskapsakademien, Stockholm, Sweden




7"x9" Miniature Orange Life Jacket


Sjoraddningssallskapet, Gothenburgh, Sweden




Gold Astronaut Pin


Agency Presentation




Gold Astronaut Pin


Agency Presentation




Gold Astronaut Pin


Agency Presentation




Gold Astronaut Pin


Agency Presentation


Items 65 through 86 are manifested at the request of the Space Shuttle Program Office and Payload Customers.




320 8.5"x11" Sheets of Bookmarks


Space Shuttle Program (SSP) Presentation




50 TriDAR Patches


SSP Presentation




75 TriDAR Labels


SSP Presentation




150 17A Mission Patches


International Space Station Program (ISSP) Presentation




150 17A Logo Pins


ISSP Presentation




150 17A Logo Placards


ISSP Presentation




30 Treadmill "T2" Patches


ISSP Presentation




4 Colbert Treadmill Patches


ISSP Presentation




30 Crew Quarters Patches


ISSP Presentation




30 FPS Patches


ISSP Presentation




30 TOCA Patches


ISSP Presentation




200 4"x6" MSRR-1 Flags


ISSP Presentation




30 FCF Patches


ISSP Presentation




10 LMM Patches


ISSP Presentation




37 LMM/CVB Labels


ISSP Presentation




3 ROI Labels


ISSP Presentation




12 EuTEF Pens w/o Ink


ISSP Presentation




100 MPLM Logo Patches


ISSP Presentation




105 MPLM ASI Patches


ISSP Presentation




200 (4"x6") MPLM Flags


ISSP Presentation




250 CMC Patches


ISSP Presentation




250 CMC Pins


ISSP Presentation

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