Friday, October 02, 2009

NASA, Disney partner for education, Buzz parade

NASA astronaut and former International Space Station commander Mike Fincke is at Disney World today to promote a new partnership supporting math and science education for students ages 6 to 12.

The winners of new challenges - link to them here - could get a VIP tour of Kennedy Space Center, a mission patch flown in space or an experiment conducted on the space station.

The Orlando theme park today will host a ticker-tape parade to honor the return of Buzz Lightyear from a 15-month stay on the station. The 12-inch "Toy Story" action figure flew back to Earth aboard space shuttle Discovery, which landed Sept. 11 in California.

In addition to Lightyear and Fincke, the parade down Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom will also feature none other than Apollo 11 legend Buzz Aldrin.

Here's the NASA press release:

WASHINGTON -- NASA and Disney Parks, which collaborated to carry toy space ranger Buzz Lightyear into orbit, are launching new efforts to encourage students to pursue studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The 12-inch-tall action figure spent more than 15 months aboard the International Space Station and returned to Earth on Sept. 11. On Friday, Oct. 2, a ticker-tape parade at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Fla., will officially welcome Lightyear home.

"Buzz's historic spaceflight is a great example of spreading the excitement of space exploration with students around the world," said Joyce Winterton, NASA's assistant administrator for Education at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "We hope our space station crews and Buzz will continue to spark student interest in the space station and its scientific potential."

NASA astronaut Mike Fincke, the station commander from October 2008 to April 2009, is spending the day at the Magic Kingdom to tell students about two new educational design challenges and a new online game.

Mission Patch Design Challenge: Students ages 6-12 will have the opportunity to design a patch to commemorate Lightyear's mission and his accomplishment of being the longest serving space ranger. The student with the most creative mission patch and 100-word essay will win a tour of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida and a trip to Walt Disney World Resort. NASA will fly the winning patch into space
then present it to the contest winner.

Kids in Micro-g Experiment Challenge: Students in the fifth through eighth grades are encouraged to devise experiments to be conducted aboard the space station. The 12 winning experiments will be performed by the end of the school year and videotaped for the winning schools.

For more information about the challenges, visit:

NASA and Disney Parks are launching a new online game as part of the Space Ranger Education Series. The series includes fun educational games for students and materials for educators to download and integrate into classroom curricula. In the newest game, "Putting It All Together," players can build the entire station using all of the real modules.

"We can't thank our partners at NASA enough for bringing Buzz Lightyear home from space to his family, friends and fans here at Disney Parks -- after all, this was his dream come true," said Duncan Wardle, vice president of Disney Parks.

NASA Television will air highlights of Finke's meeting with students and the Buzz Lightyear parade. For streaming video, schedules and downlink information, visit:

For information about other NASA education programs, visit:

For more information about the space station, visit:

For more information about the space shuttle, visit:


IMAGE NOTE: At top, Buzz Lightyear stands near space shuttle Discovery at Edwards Air Force Base on Sept. 15. During more than 15 months on the International Space Station, Buzz Lightyear supported NASA's education outreach program -- STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) -- by creating a series of fun, educational online outreach programs. Following the "Toy Story" action figure's return on Discovery, Disney is partnering with NASA to create a new online educational game and an online mission patch competition for school kids across America. NASA will fly the winning patch in space. Credit: NASA. Below, a publicity image released by Disney Pixar shows characters Woody, left, and Buzz Lightyear, from the animated film "Toy Story." (AP Photo/Disney Pixar)

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