Tremor the Dinosaur Meets Little Earth

Tremor the Dinosaur Meets Little Earth

On their first full day aboard the International Space Station (ISS), the crew of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Endeavour and their ISS crew mate Chris Cassidy introduced two “zero gravity indicators” — a toy dinosaur and a plush toy Little Earth — to a television audience as they thanked the SpaceX team for all the work that got them safely to orbit.

Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are the crew of the Demo-2 test flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon commercial crew spaccraft.  Demo-1 was an uncrewed test flight last year.

Space crews often bring along a small toy, usually chosen by their children, that begins floating as soon as they reach orbit and are in zero gravity, which they may not realize since they are still strapped to their seats.

Little Earth, or Earthy, was stowed away on Demo-1 and delighted NASA astronaut Anne McClain and other ISS crew members.

It has remained aboard waiting for the Demo-2 crew to bring it home. Behnken and Hurley brought along a toy dinosaur, specifically an apatosaurus, named Tremor chosen by their sons Theodore (6) and Jack (10).

Today, Behnken, Hurley and Cassidy showed them off along with a mosiac of Earth composed of digital photos of more than 90,000 Class of 2020 “virtual graduates” from preschool through graduate school who missed graduation ceremonies because of the coronavirus pandemic and sent their photos to SpaceX.

NASA astronauts aboard ISS (L-R): Bob Behnken with Tremor the dinosaur; Doug Hurley with the SpaceX mosaic; and Chris Cassidy with Little Earth. June 1, 2020.  (Screengrab)

They also showed the flag that Hurley left on ISS the last time he was there as a member of the STS-135 crew, the final flight of the space shuttle. The point was for it to be returned to Earth by the next crew to launch from the United States.  Boeing is also building a commercial crew vehicle, Starliner, and a friendly “capture the flag” competition grew to see who would win, SpaceX or Boeing.  As it so happens, both crews include someone from STS-135. Hurley was the STS-135 pilot. Chris Ferguson, who left NASA to work for Boeing and will be aboard the first Starliner mission, was STS-135’s commander, but it will be Hurley bringing it back to SpaceX.

NASA astronaut Doug Hurley (center) holds the flag that he left on ISS during his last visit in 2011. June 1, 2020. (Screengrab)

SpaceX won’t keep it though.  The flag originally flew into space on the first space shuttle mission, STS-1, in 1981.  It will fly again on the first flight of the Orion spacecraft to take a crew around the Moon as part of the Artemis program.

The lighthearted event with Benji Reed, Director of Crew Mission Management for SpaceX, was to recognize the hard work of the SpaceX team in building and launching Crew Dragon and the Falcon 9 rocket that delivered Bob and Doug to the ISS.

It was a welcome respite from the coronavirus and civil unrest down here on Earth.  Astronauts often refer to the “overview effect” of seeing Earth from orbit and realizing how fragile it is and the need for everyone to work together in harmony.  Behnken referred to it today in the context of COVID-19 and the missed graduations represented by the mosaic, saying “we’re all in this together.” One might only wish that sentiment was shared more broadly.

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