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Astronauts Bring NASA's Magic to Disney


Astronauts Bring NASA's Magic to Disney


"Five... Four... Three... Two... One..."

A voice over the loudspeakers counted down as the crowd waited in 
anticipation outside the "Mission: SPACE" attraction at Walt Disney 
World's Epcot Center in Orlando. Finally, with a thundering /whoosh/ and 
an explosion of smoke and confetti, a glass plaque bearing the 
inspirational words of astronaut Barbara R. Morgan was unveiled as 
onlookers cheered.

"Reach for your dreams...the sky is no limit," states the plaque outside 
the ride that takes guests on a simulated journey into space.

Mission Specialist Barbara R. Morgan (left) helps dedicate a plaque 
outside the Mission: Space attraction.The plaque dedication was part of 
Disney World's "NASA Space Day" celebration on Sept. 10, 2007, in which 
the seven astronauts who flew aboard space shuttle Endeavour on the 
STS-118 mission were honored for their hard work in space with a visit 
to "the happiest place on Earth." Throughout the day, students and theme 
park guests gathered to listen as the blue-suited astronauts answered 
questions and shared stories of their spaceflight experiences.

Image right: Mission Specialist Barbara R. Morgan (left) helps dedicate 
a plaque outside the Mission: Space attraction. At right are Vice 
President of Epcot Jim MacPhee and NASA Assistant Administrator for 
Education Joyce Winterton. Photo credit: NASA/George Shelton


A special education session gave students from Orlando-area schools the 
opportunity to speak with Commander Scott Kelly, Pilot Charlie Hobaugh 
and Mission Specialists Tracy Caldwell, Rick Mastracchio, Barbara R. 
Morgan, Alvin Drew and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Dave Williams. 
Local fourth- and fifth-graders joined students from the Oak Ridge High 
School Aviation and Aerospace Academy Magnet Program, and the Osceola 
High School Aviation Academy.

One student asked which was the most difficult and challenging obstacle 
the astronauts faced.

"Everybody has a different challenge or obstacle that they have to 
overcome," answered Mastracchio. "One of the things that I ran into is 
when I graduated from college I wanted to be a military pilot, so I went 
to join the Air Force or the Navy or the Marines."

Mastracchio went on to explain that because he has to wear glasses or 
contacts to improve his vision, he couldn't be a pilot, so he decided 
instead to work for NASA as an engineer.

The astronauts answer questions from the student audience."I kept 
putting in astronaut application after astronaut application, and 
eventually got selected as an astronaut and got to fly in space two 
times," Mastracchio said. "So even though you meet obstacles, there are 
always ways around those obstacles to achieve your goals and make your 
dreams come true."

Image left: The crew members of space shuttle mission STS-118 answer 
questions from the student audience. Photo credit: NASA/George Shelton

Education has been a strong focus for the STS-118 crew members, who 
participated in a series of question-and-answer sessions with students 
on Earth during the 13-day mission in August 2007. The assembly flight 
to the International Space Station was highlighted by the installation 
of the two-ton S5 truss segment, a high-tech girder that extends the 
length of the station's backbone by 11 feet. The astronauts also 
activated the new Station-to-Shuttle Power Transfer System, which allows 
a docked shuttle to draw power from the outpost, making more time for 
station construction.

While at Disney, the astronauts also took the time to answer questions 
from enthusiastic park guests. Five-year-old Kaitlyn Brown was visiting 
the theme park with her father, Clyde, who happens to be a NASA 
contractor employee at the agency's Langley Research Center in Virginia.

Kaitlyn asked how long it takes to adapt to space. "It's different for 
every person," Morgan answered, remembering that she felt upside-down at 
first. "But I got used to it, and that's when the fun starts."

The STS-118 crew members march down Main Street at Walt Disney World in 
Orlando.As the day drew to a close, the crew members served as honorary 
grand marshals of the Magic Kingdom's afternoon parade. Families 
gathered on the sidewalks in a drizzling rain along the park's famed 
Main Street to watch and applaud as the astronauts waved.

Image right: With Cinderella's castle in the background, the seven 
STS-118 crew members march down Main Street at Walt Disney World's Magic 
Kingdom theme park. Photo credit: NASA/George Shelton

Ariel Katz, a 7-year-old visiting from Brooklyn, N.Y., watched with 
excitement as the crew passed by. "I was out of my mind when I saw the 
astronauts!" the second-grader exclaimed breathlessly afterward.

The boy's mother, Helene Feit-Katz, said they were simply visiting the 
Magic Kingdom on vacation when they found out the STS-118 crew was 
there. "It's a pleasant surprise. I never expected this," she said. 
"It's amazing. You don't know what this does for Ariel."

As it turns out, one of the major highlights of the family's trip to 
Florida was a visit to Kennedy Space Center, which is only about an hour 
away from Orlando.

It's a small world, after a

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