Purra goes to space with NASA and SpaceX

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5 January 2021

Australia was part of something special when the NASA and SpaceX Crew-1 mission launched on Monday, 16 November (Australian time).

The Australian Space Agency had precious cargo onboard Crew Dragon Resilience in the form of its toy space kangaroo named Purra. Purra was lucky to score a spot on the first fully operational NASA-SpaceX flight headed to the International Space Station.

Crew Dragon Resilience docked at the space station on Tuesday, 17 November. The Australian Space Agency were excited to recently receive the below space station greeting from Purra and NASA Crew-1 member, Shannon Walker.

A space tradition  

Bringing toys to space has been a tradition for nearly 60 years since Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space, carried with him a doll given to him by his daughter.  From then, toys have continued travelling to space as mementos for crew or zero gravity indicators. In 1985, NASA also commenced the Toys in Space program as a STEM engagement activity. This program uses toys to teach kids the laws of physics. 

Purra the kangaroo was selected by the Australian Space Agency as symbol of Australia and our partnership with NASA. 

The significance of Purra

Purra is culturally significant as its name is connected to an Australian Indigenous astronomy story that’s included in the Australian Space Agency brand.

There is a strong connection between space and Australia’s Indigenous people, who have a rich history using space for more than 65,000 years. The sky has been critical to them in determining seasonal activities around food and movement, and is a reflection of what’s happening on the land. 

Purra is a red kangaroo that was pursued by the hunters Wanjel and Yuree. This is a story from the Boorong People of Victoria, which can be visualied across the stars in the southern hemisphere.

Purra appears in the north-east of the southern sky in mid to late August just before dawn. The major star in Purra is Capella. It then disappears in the early evening of late February, followed later by the appearance of its pursuers, Wanjel and Yuree. A line drawn from Wanjel through to Yuree towards the horizon connects with Purra. The Boorong people consider stars Castor and Pollux in the Gemini constellation to represent each hunter.

Hello from Purra and Shannon Walker

Watch as Purra and Shannon Walker say hello to Australia from the International Space Station. The story of Purra is mentioned in the below video greeting. This is a significant moment as it the first time Australian Indigenous astronomical traditions have been referenced in space.

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