WASHINGTON -- As seven, well-trained astronauts begin an important mission to the International Space Station on Saturday, May 31, one toy astronaut, Buzz Lightyear, will begin a journey to help educate children across the country.
The liftoff of space shuttle Discovery kicks off a new education initiative between NASA and Disney Parks. A 12-inch-tall Buzz Lightyear action figure will be carried aboard the shuttle as part of the partnership to encourage students to pursue studies in science, technology and mathematics, one of NASA's main educational goals.
Disney's Youth Educational Series and NASA have developed an online program known as the Space Ranger Education Series. It includes fun educational games for students, as well as materials for educators to download and integrate into their classroom curriculum.
"NASA is excited to help students understand the science and engineering currently underway on the International Space Station," said Joyce Winterton, NASA assistant administrator for Education. "The educational games and resources from this partnership will allow students to explore the science and math behind space exploration with a beloved character."
Beginning Saturday, May 31, the online games featuring Buzz Lightyear will be available by visiting NASA's homepage and clicking on the box for the NASA Kids' Club at:
The five educational games are:
"Mission Match Up: Create a Game" -- Match the International Space Station partner countries to space facts
"Connect it! Flight Path" -- Attach the Kibo laboratory to the International Space Station using a sequence of commands
"Load the Shuttle" -- Fill the shuttle with cargo to a certain mass
"I Spy: Reflections from Space" -- Find everyday objects on the International Space Station that were built on NASA technology
"Toys in Space" -- Navigate Buzz Lightyear to different toys to see a movie on how they behave in space
Since 1985, NASA's Toys in Space project has used toys flown aboard the shuttle and the International Space Station to help children learn science and mathematics. Scientific and mathematical principles make these toys work. For example, wind-up toys convert stored potential energy in their springs into kinetic energy as the springs unwind. Gravity often plays an important role in the actions of toys, but how would the same toys function in an environment where the effects of gravity are not felt? Only NASA can provide the settings, so students can discover the answer to questions like these.
"We are thrilled that Buzz's lifelong dream of space travel finally will come true thanks to NASA," said Jay Rasulo, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. "This launch fulfills his dream, and we hope it will inspire countless children to stay interested in science and believe in their own dreams."
The beginning of Buzz's space mission coincides with the opening of "Toy Story Mania!," a new 4-D interactive attraction, on May 31 at Walt Disney World, Fla., and on June 17 at Disneyland Resort, Calif.
For information about other NASA education programs, visit:
For more information about the space station, visit:
For more information about the STS-124 shuttle mission and its crew, visit: