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Buzz Lightyear and astronauts' mementos returning from space to inspire kids, public


Buzz Lightyear aboard space shuttle Discovery (Disney/NASA)
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.


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

Homecomings

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.



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.  
  1. 625 STS-128 crew patches
  2. 75 Expedition 21 patches
  Agency Presentation
2.   800 Small United States Flags   Agency Presentation
3.   5 Sets U.S. States & Territories Flags   Agency Presentation
4.   5 Sets United Nations Members Flags   Agency Presentation
5.  
  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
6.   Small Flags of the Following States:
  1. 10 California
  2. 10 Texas
  3. 10 Indiana
  4. 10 Virginia
  Agency Presentation
7.   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
8.   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
9.  
  1. 10 Small United States Flags
  2. 10 Small Alabama State Flags
  Marshall Space Flight Center Presentation
10.  
  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
11.  
  1. 2 Small United States Flags
  2. 2 Small Florida State Flags
  Kennedy Space Center Presentation
12.   140 Silver Snoopy Pins   Space Flight Awareness Presentation
 
13.   25 EVA Patches   Agency Presentation
14.  
  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
15.   20 Constellation Pins   Constellation Program Office Presentation
 
16.   25 COD Patches   Center Operations Directorate Presentation
 
17.   25 Mission Operations Patches   Mission Operation Directorate Presentation
 
Items 18 through 64 are manifested at the request of the STS-128 crewmembers.
 
18.   35"x56" Gold and Navy Flag   Patriot Guard Riders, Houston, TX
 
19.   36"x60" State Flag   Indiana State Senate, Indianapolis, IN
 
20.   48"x72" Navy and Gold Flag   Air Force Institute of Technology, West Point, NY
 
21.   2.5" Green Ceramic Airplane   Nortre Dame Aerospace Engineering, Notre Dame, IN
 
22.   Gold "Class of 1978" Medallion with Ribbon   Blackford High School, Hartford City, IN
 
23.   South Bend Radio Control Patch   South Bend American Model Assoc., South Bend, IN
 
24.   7.5" White "B" Band Letter   Blackford Bands, Hartford City, IN
 
25.   2.5" Red Model Car   Indianopolis Motor Speedway, Speedway, IN
 
26.   7"x5" White Space Shuttle Model   Montpelier Elementary School, Montpelier, IN
 
27.   4"x5" Indiana State Flag   City of Montpelier, Montpelier, IN
 
28.   Gold Class of 1979 Medallion   U.S. Military Academy, West Point, NY
 
29.   19.5"x29.5" Navy and White Pennant   The Old Guard, Arlington, VA
 
30.   6.5"x6.5" Metal Airplane Hardware   Mission Aviation Fellowship, Nampa, ID
 
31.   Gold Unit Medallion   4th Battallion, 3rd Aviation Regiment, Savannah, GA
 
32.   Blue and White Stripe Square Unit Patch   3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, GA
 
33.   6"x8" Orange Plastic Plaque   University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
 
34.   Black, White and Red Team Jersey   The Durban Sharks, Durban, South Africa
 
35.   Gold Astros "Defending Freedom" Medallion   Houston Astros, Houston, TX
 
36.   36"x51" Maroon and White Flag   Wounded Warrior Foundation, Arlington, VA
 
37.   23"x26" Green, White and Red Flag   Survivors of Squadron 201, Mexico City, Mexico
 
38.   City Lapel Pin   City of Stockton, CA
 
39.   35"x57" Red, Black and White School Flag   University of the Pacific, Stockton, CA
 
40.   Red, White and Blue Ribbon   League of United Latin American Citizens, Stockton, CA
 
41.   37"x60" Orange, Gold and White Flag   Kingdom of Bhutan, Bhutan
 
42.   36"x60" Green and White School Banner   Dr. Walter Cooper Academy, Rochester, NY
 
43.   Congressional Medallion   16th Congressional District, Washington, DC
 
44.   13"x19" Green, Gold and Navy Pennant   U.S. Border Patrol Museum, El Paso, TX
 
45.   17.5"x22" Purple and White Chapter Pennant   Alzheimer's Association National Office, Chicago, IL
 
46.   9"x11" Purple and Silver Chapter Pennant   Alzheimer's Assoc., Houston and Southeast Chapter, TX
 
47.   13"x15" Maroon Centennial Seal Felt Piece   Drew School, San Francisco, CA
 
48.   36"x60" White and Blue Flag   National Renewable Energy Lab, Golden, CO
 
49.   36"x60" Green and White Banner   Oyster-Adams Bilingual School, Washington, DC
 
50.   36"x60" White and Blue Flag   HENAAC, Los Angeles, CA
 
51.   Silver Carved Spoon   Sametinget, Kiruna, Sweden
 
52.   9.5"x15" Black and Gold Pennant   Kungliga Operan, Stockholm, Sweden
 
53.   Nobel Peace Prize Medallion Replica   Norsk Romsenter, Oslo, Norway
 
54.   24"x36" Navy, Blue and Gold Team Flag   Djurgardens IF Football, Stockholm, Sweden
 
55.   4.5" Round Yellow Felt Piece   CERN, Geneva, Switzerland
 
56.   6"x9" White Swedish Olympic Pennant   Sveriges Olympiska Kommitte, Stockholm, Sweden
 
57.   Gold "Christoph Polhern" Medallion   Sveriges Ingenjorer, Stockholm, Sweden
 
58.   2"x5" Carved Wooden Knight Chess Piece   Svenska Schackakademien, Stockholm, Sweden
 
59.   "Wargentin" Medal   Kungliga Vetenskapsakademien, Stockholm, Sweden
 
60.   7"x9" Miniature Orange Life Jacket   Sjoraddningssallskapet, Gothenburgh, Sweden
 
61.   Gold Astronaut Pin   Agency Presentation
 
62.   Gold Astronaut Pin   Agency Presentation
 
63.   Gold Astronaut Pin   Agency Presentation
 
64.   Gold Astronaut Pin   Agency Presentation
 
Items 65 through 86 are manifested at the request of the Space Shuttle Program Office and Payload Customers.
 
65.   320 8.5"x11" Sheets of Bookmarks   Space Shuttle Program (SSP) Presentation
 
66.   50 TriDAR Patches   SSP Presentation
 
67.   75 TriDAR Labels   SSP Presentation
 
68.   150 17A Mission Patches   International Space Station Program (ISSP) Presentation
 
69.   150 17A Logo Pins   ISSP Presentation
 
70.   150 17A Logo Placards   ISSP Presentation
 
71.   30 Treadmill "T2" Patches   ISSP Presentation
 
72.   4 Colbert Treadmill Patches   ISSP Presentation
 
73.   30 Crew Quarters Patches   ISSP Presentation
 
74.   30 FPS Patches   ISSP Presentation
 
75.   30 TOCA Patches   ISSP Presentation
 
76.   200 4"x6" MSRR-1 Flags   ISSP Presentation
 
77.   30 FCF Patches   ISSP Presentation
 
78.   10 LMM Patches   ISSP Presentation
 
79.   37 LMM/CVB Labels   ISSP Presentation
 
80.   3 ROI Labels   ISSP Presentation
 
81.   12 EuTEF Pens w/o Ink   ISSP Presentation
 
82.   100 MPLM Logo Patches   ISSP Presentation
 
83.   105 MPLM ASI Patches   ISSP Presentation
 
84.   200 (4"x6") MPLM Flags   ISSP Presentation
 
85.   250 CMC Patches   ISSP Presentation
 
86.   250 CMC Pins   ISSP Presentation

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