Smokey and the Astronaut
SourDough News | September 30, 2013
Astronaut Joe Acaba employs Smokey Bear as a zero-gravity indicator aboard the Soyuz spacecraft that took him and his Russian crewmates to the International Space Station in May 2012. (Photo/NASA)
Astronaut Joe Acaba.
Astronaut Joe Acaba, Smokey Bear, and Gary Roberts, Payson Ranger District Fire Prevention Officer, greet thousands of fans at the 24th Annual Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., December 29, 2012. (Photo/ Brienne Magee/Forest Service)
Wildland firefighters from the Payson Ranger District, Tonto National Forest, meet Astronaut Joe Acaba (blue flight suit) before the Fiesta Bowl Parade December 29, 2012. (Photo/Jeff Miller/Forest Service).
By Teresa Haugh and Jeffrey M. Miller,
U.S. Forest Service
Gary Roberts from the Tonto National Forest in Arizona almost deleted an email without reading it, until something extraordinary caught his eye. NASA Flight Engineer Joseph Acaba and his Russian crewmates were traveling to the International Space Station (ISS), and taking Smokey Bear with them! Roberts’ imagination took a flight of its own. Wouldn’t it be grand to bring Smokey and the astronaut to Arizona for the Fiesta Bowl Parade? They could join the Payson Ranger District wildland firefighters who march in the annual parade to increase public awareness about forest health and fire prevention.
As Roberts soon learned, Joe Acaba is an avid supporter of national forests and public lands, and a long-time friend of Alaska Region employee Jeff Miller. In April 2012, with this friendship as a catalyst, the Forest Service launched an important partnership with NASA to coincide with the mid-May liftoff of the new crew heading to the ISS. Acaba explained that for each mission to the space station, based on a long-standing Russian tradition, the crew chooses a talisman which serves as a zero-gravity indicator in the Soyuz. Acaba’s crewmates agreed to use Smokey Bear as their talisman, and Acaba strapped a small Smokey doll into a porthole before the Soyuz spacecraft was launched. Smokey’s job began once the crew reached low orbit. He was released to float around freely to indicate to the crew that Zero-G was in effect. The crew arrived at the orbiting space station May 16.
Although Smokey in space was a new phenomenon, collaboration been NASA and the U.S. Forest Service is not new. The two agencies have a history of working together in a variety of partnerships involving wildfire and imagery from space. High resolution photos taken by the ISS crew can be used to document the extent and impacts of wildfire in the U.S.
“NASA and the U.S. Forest Service have had a tradition of working together in a variety of partnerships involving wildfire and imagery from space,” said Alaska Regional Forester Beth Pendleton. “We are fortunate Astronaut Joe Acaba, an avid supporter of our national forests, worked with Smokey Bear and the Forest Service to highlight the impact of wildfires on our public lands.”
Acaba and Smokey returned to earth September 16. On December 28, they traveled to the Arizona Challenger Space Center in Peoria, Ariz., for the Cosmic Kids Holiday Camp. On December 29, they fulfilled Gary Roberts’ dream when they went to Phoenix for the 42nd Annual Fiesta Bowl Parade. They rode in the back of the ranger district’s classic 1925 Dodge pickup, the oldest Forest Service vehicle still in service. Wildland firefighters walked alongside, waving to an enthusiastic crowd. On the third day, Smokey and the astronaut were part of the celebrations at the 24th Annual Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe, Ariz.
While the partnership between NASA and the Forest Service was celebrated with fleeting fanfare, fireworks, and football games, the common ground of conserving our natural resources remains constant.
Smokey on line: www.smokeybear.com
Smokey on Facebook: www.facebook.com/smokeybear
Smokey on Twitter: @smokey_bear Hashtag: #SmokeyinSpace
English Version Ad Council PSA - Joe Acaba
Spanish Version Ad Council PSA - Joe Acaba
Smokey visits Flight Station Control Room
International Space Station: Smokey Bear Goes to Space
Happy Birthday, Smokey Bear from Joe Acaba
For more information about the International Space Station and its crew, visit: www.nasa.gov/station.