Smokey Bear To Get A Ride To The Space Station
April 26, 2012

Smokey Bear To Get A Ride To The Space Station

American astronaut Joseph Acaba says he has chosen Smokey the Bear, the mascot of the United States Forest Service, as the mascot for the new crew heading to the International Space Station.

Acaba said at a press conference in Moscow on Wednesday that he will take the toy bear on board the spacecraft and use it as an indicator of weightlessness.

Aacaba says he hopes Smokey will help raise public awareness of the dangers posed by “human caused forest fires and of how important the natural environment is,” according to an Associated Press (AP) report.

Acaba and his Russian crewmates Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin are scheduled to travel to the station on May 15 from the Russian  Baikonur launching site in Kazakhstan.

The recent retirement of the U.S. shuttle fleet has left Russia´s Soyuz spacecraft as the only available means of transporting crews to the International Space Station. Acaba said the Soyuz spacecraft has “ a great history of being reliable.”  And, “Of course, the landing will be a little different than we were used to on the Shuttle, but I think we are mentally prepared for that.”

At present, several private U.S. companies are competing with each other to carry astronauts into space and to their destinations.

A U.S. corporation known as Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX,  is set to launch the first ever commercial spaceship to the International Space Station next month. This spacecraft called The Dragon will be launched by means of Space X´s Falcon rocket from Cape Canaveral. For its initial voyage to the station, The Dragon will carry a cargo of food, clothing, computers and science equipment.

Dragon is designed to then return to Earth with a full load from the Space Station. No other ship built by Russia, Europe or Japan has had that ability before now.