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December 03, 2016
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Smurf in space; Science teacher’s lesson reaches the final frontier

Fluhr sits with a model of the rocket that took the smurf, the mission patch and the collage of photos of students.
Contributed photos

After an accident involving the original spacecraft during testing and a two-month delay, a replacement ship was readied to launch on the TMA-04M, Expedition 31 mission. With the children watching NASA TV on May 15, 2012, the Smurf and their pictures were loaded on the Russian Soyuz-FG rocket and blasted into space along with two Russian cosmonauts and an American astronaut to spend 125 days on board the International Space Station orbiting the planet over 2,000 times. Fluhr was in awe, watching the cosmonaut board the ship with his pack, knowing that his stuff was inside of it.

The students spent the summer and fall looking up at the space station, knowing they had something riding on the big, star-like object moving across the night sky at 17,500 miles per hour. After traveling 53,000,000 miles and re-entering the atmosphere at 3,000 degrees, the school’s items landed safely in the deserts of Kazakhstan.

After more than a year of waiting, the children recently got the Smurf and photos back, giving them the rare opportunity to see and hold objects that have been to space. These included signed documents and numerous photographs taken by the cosmonaut. Fluhr said his students were absolutely thrilled with this opportunity. “They liked the idea of holding something that had been in space,” Fluhr said, “It’s not like a museum where you can’t touch anything.”

The Smurf can be seen along with the children’s pictures floating in front of the observation deck window of the International Space Station overlooking the Earth. Fluhr said, “This toy had already been to space many times in a child’s imagination. How fantastic is it that this time it really got to go?”

Once his Smurf had been sent to space, Fluhr returned to the pine trees where, as a boy, he had once stuck the Smurf and he thought, “It sure is a heck of a lot higher now.”