10 Offbeat Things Humans Have Launched Into Space

Buzz Lightyear

"To infinity ... and beyond!" may have been Buzz Lightyear's fictional call-to-action, but in 2008 the catchphrase signaled a literal adventure for this Disney character. That's when a 12-inch (30.5-centimeter) Buzz Lightyear action figure orbited the Earth for 468 days as a passenger aboard the International Space Station. Lightyear was part of an educational outreach program during Space Shuttle Discovery's STS-124 mission to the space station. Lightyear was a featured character in the STEM program, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics; it included a series of online learning games and science lessons piped into elementary school classrooms [source: Pearlman].

When he did finally come back to Earth, Lightyear, a character in Disney-Pixar's 1995 animated "Toy Story" film, returned to a hero's welcome -- one that included his eventual installment in the Smithsonian Museum's National Collection. Despite a spate of media attention, Lightyear remains mum on whether he prefers the travel of a space shuttle to a self-powered backpack rocket [source: Siceloff].

More to Explore