Thursday, September 17, 2009

Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, NASA, and What's Educational

"Buzz Lightyear to Get Ticker Tape Parade After Record Spaceflight" (September 17, 2009)

"Buzz Lightyear has been about as close to infinity as he'll ever get, and he's back. The 'Toy Story' character will get a ticker tape parade at Walt Disney World in Florida Oct. 2 to celebrate his record-setting 468 days in space.

"The longest stretch in space previously was in 1995 by Russian cosmonaut Valery Polyakov, who Buzz just bested by a month.

"The 12-inch tall Buzz (who no doubt thinks he's the only Buzz) headed to the International Space Station last year aboard Discovery's STS-124 mission in joint educational effort by NASA and Disney. He returned Sept. 11, aboard space shuttle Discovery's STS-128 mission after his 15 months aboard the orbiting outpost...."

I know: "educational" and a 12-inch Buzz Lightyear (of Star Command) figure don't seem to belong in the same sentence. I think there's a case for this, though. Granted, NASA's Buzz Lightyear in Orbit site on the NASA Kid's Club isn't going to teach much about quadratic equations and the comparative resistance to corrosion of ferric and non-ferric alloys - but it just might get some kids interested enough in space exploration to be willing to learn what it takes to get involved.

Someone wrote, years back, how Edgar Rice Burrough's Barsoom stories had sparked his interest in science. I don't think anyone would seriously suggest that works like "A Princess of Mars," "The Warlord of Mars," or "Swords of Mars" were useful textbooks for someone studying exobiology. But they jump-started at least one person's imagination and interest in exploring the real Mars.

So, yeah: I don't have a problem with Buzz Lightyear getting a ticker-tape parade at Walt Disney World. And, twenty or forty years from now, someone may be writing how Buzz Lightyear of Star Command started a journey of discovery. That person might even be writing on Mars.


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