Rural Colorado Kids Sent The First Teddy Bear Into Space

Magellan T Bear (NASA)
Magellan T. Bear, STS-63 | Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Meet Magellan T. Bear, the first teddy bear to travel into space. Flying as an “Educational Specialist” aboard Space Shuttle Discovery on the STS-63 mission in February 1995, Magellan T. Bear saw the world in ways few humans ever will.


His adventures began in the early 1990s, when faculty at Elk Creek Elementary School in rural Pine, Colorado, launched an initiative to send the first teddy bear into space. Their goal was to ignite students’ interest in geography, science, and social studies. It was a massive undertaking.


To put their plan in motion, they partnered with NASA and Spacehab to enroll the bear in space camp. They secured his place on the shuttle and got him certified for space travel. They even partnered with the North American Bear Company to have him fitted with a proper uniform.


Their hard work paid off. After successfully completing his space mission in February 1995, Magellan T. Bear was named the first teddy bear to travel into space. It was an enormous honor, but he wasn’t content to stop there. A series of life-changing adventures lay just around the corner.

Space Mission STS-63 Crew
STS-63 Crew (Magellan T. Bear not pictured) | NASA

In addition to traveling into space, Magellan T. Bear traveled around the world, visited the South Pole, spent the night at the White House, completed a dive aboard a Trident nuclear submarine, flew with the Navy’s Blue Angels, and accompanied the United Airlines crew on their first Boeing 777 flight. He caught the eye of People Magazine too. In a 1995 issue they named him one of the 25 most intriguing people of the year.

 

Two years after Magellan T. Bear’s space mission, the Smithsonian Institute announced its intention to induct him into the National Air and Space Museum. The bear was ecstatic, but wanted to embark on a final vacation through Colorado ski country first.

 

Promised a ski pass for every resort he visited, Magellan T. Bear made stops at Crested Butte, Winter Park, Keystone, Monarch, Powderhorn, Steamboat, and more. At Steamboat he found thrills riding on the back of an aerialist skier from the Steamboat Freestyle Team and taking runs with a mogul champion. At Winter Park he enjoyed viewing the mountain vistas from the warmth of the gondola.

 

After completing his epic ski adventure, Magellan T. Bear was named Colorado’s Official Ambassador of Friendship.

 

Representing Elk Creek Elementary School in May 1998, principal Jerry Williams and librarian Penny Wiedeke presented Magellan T. Bear to the National Air and Space Museum. To this day he remains in the museum’s permanent collection, evidence that elementary students and school faculty, working together, can accomplish amazing things.

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