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Category: Toys

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11 Toys That Went To Space, Including Angry Birds
11 Toys That Went To Space, Including Angry Birds

With SpaceX's Crew-1 mission, Angry Birds and Baby Yoda joined a prominent list of toys that have been to space.

Over the years, an apparently endless list of significant objects — from a $23 million toilet to equipment for zero gravity organ-growing experiments— have been launched up to the International Space Station (ISS).

Recently, social media feeds were bombarded by the discovery that one of SpaceX's historic Demo-1 mission astronauts had embarked with a special cargo: a Baby Yoda toy.

It becomes apparent that the Star Wars critter is one of a long list of questionably just-as-important toy companions to make it to space — because astronauts need a little of playtime too. Here are some of our favorite toys to have positioned aboard the ISS.

1. Baby Yoda

Baby Yoda, the super cute assistant from the Star Wars series The Mandalorian Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi and NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Shannon Walker, and Victor Glover, on a Sunday night as they made their way to the ISS after the takeoff of SpaceX's Crew-1 mission.

Baby Yoda floating on the ISS bound flight in Zero Gravity
Baby Yoda could be seen floating in Zero-G (top right) - Source: SpaceX YouTube

"Baby Yoda says you guys can revisit on board," astronaut Glover told SpaceX mission control shortly after launch, to notify them that they could turn the cameras back on inside the spacecraft.

2. Buzz Lightyear

In the well-known Pixar Toy Story movies, it was always Buzz Lightyear's dream to make it to space. Anyway, he finally reached that goal in 2008 when a toy Buzz Lightyear was sent to the International Space Station.

Astronaught Patrick Forrestor holding Toy Story's "Buzz Lightyear" on board the ISS
Astronaught Patrick Forrestor holding Toy Story's "Buzz Lightyear"

The toy was sent aboard the Discovery Space Shuttle two times and spent a total of 15 months on the ISS. After coming back to Earth, Buzz was put on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, US, where he still lives, recalling over his glory days no doubt.

3. Red Bird from Angry Birds

When developer Rovio launched Angry Birds Space back in 2012, NASA astronaut Don Pettit brought a plush toy form of Red Bird with him to the ISS as a help for explaining microgravity in an educational video.

Unluckily, the green piggy toy didn't make it, so Pettit had to make do with a roughly drawn form on a green balloon.

4. Earthy - A 'super high-tech Zero-G indicator'

A fluffy toy planet called 'Earthy' was blasted into space on a cargo test mission aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon in 2019, a forerunner to the current astronaut missions. This was the first ever toy to fly on the SpaceX.

As no humans were allowed onboard the Crew Dragon at the time 'Earthy' might be able to assert the title of the first toy passenger to fly a SpaceX rocket.

At the moment, Elon Musk pointed out in a Twitter post, a "super high tech zero g indicator was included just before the launch!"

5. Dino Plush

When astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken became the first humans to ever fly aboard a SpaceX rocket back in June 2020, they brought a cute friend along for the space ride.

Little Dino Plush toy called Tremor flying on board the ISS
Little Dino called Tremor flying on board the ISS

As both the astronauts have children who are big dinosaur fans, they chose Tremor, a glittery Apatosaurus, to take on their mission. Tremor became an instant internet sensation and quickly sold out after successively being listed on SpaceX's website.

6. Solo Space Baseball

It could be a query in a general knowledge quiz that almost no one would know the answer for: where is the only place that someone can be the batsman, pitcher and outfield player all in the same play? The answer, of course, is the ISS.

We'll let the pictures do the talking here:

JAXA astronaut Satoshi Furukawa throws the ball.

JAXA astronaut Satoshi Furukawa throws a baseball.

He gets in place on the base.

Astronaut Satoshi Furukawa races a baseball in space

He smashes it for a home run and, only a second later, stops his own attempt by catching himself out.

Satoshi Furukawa throws the catches the baseball in space (Zero G)
Source: NASA

7. Velcro chess in space

In 2008, NASA astronaut and Expedition 17 flight engineer, took a Velcro chessboard to the ISS and played a hard-fought chess match against an elementary school chess team.

Velcro Chess floating in space
Source: NASA

According to NASA, a move was played about once every two days, with the school chess team using an online system to let their members vote for a step online. Who won? The school chess team (on behalf of Earth) took the victory after Chamitoff reconciled when Earth set its eyes into a queen.

8. A Microgravity Yo-Yo

In an informative video about microgravity released by NASA, astronauts have a go at the usual school pastime yo-yo aboard the International Space Station.

In the video above, astronaut Peggy Whitson is showing how yo-yos work in microgravity in 2002 — pretty well it turns out.

9. Lego Model of ISS aboard the ISS

Satoshi Furukawa completed a Lego scale model of the International Space Station during his stay at the ISS in November 2011.

Satoshi Furukawa completed a LEGO model of ISS on board the ISS
Source: NASA

As NASA points out, the building of the ISS scale model onboard the ISS was assembled not just as a pastime, but also to show scientific concepts. That might be one of the most meta things we've ever heard.

10. Smokey Bear

Smokey Bear, a symbol for wildland fire prevention, was propelled aboard a Soyuz spacecraft with Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin and NASA astronaut Joe Acaba in 2012.

Stuff toy Smokey Bear floating in space abroad the ISS
Smoke Bear in the ISS

Images of wildfires, like this one, from the ISS are a well-timed reminder of the importance of fire prevention.

As NASA says, Smokey's "presence on the orbiting complex emphasizes the many areas of active space station research concerning Earth observations, plant growth, and materials sciences and combustion."

11. A made-in-space Dino Toy

This toy is rather of an outlier on this list, but for a brilliant reason. 

In 2013, astronaut Karen Nyberg (who happens to be married to Doug Hurley) stitched a toy dinosaur for her son Jack while she was positioned on the ISS. That makes it the only toy on this list that wasn't really launched from Earth.

First toy made in space
Toy Dino made in Space!

The toy dino was made out of a variety of materials on the ISS, including velcro-like fabric that outlines the Russian food containers and fragments from a used t-shirt as the stuffing, Nyberg told NASA. We have to confess we're pretty jealous of Jack Hurley.

It's encouraging to see that some of the most accomplished astronauts and scientists out there also need a bit of downtime. If sports gear  and plush toys help them let their hair down — microgravity permitting — then more power to them. Is there any toy out there that you would want to see fly in Zero G? If yes, what would it be and why?