NASA recently released a few photos of the Expedition 34 crew aboard the International Space Station. Sitting inconspicuously in the corner of one of the pictures was Gort, the Earth-murdering robot from the 1951 classic The Day the Earth Stood Still. So we decided to sift through the vast archives of space exploration looking for other toys we took with us to the heavens.
Following is a collection of the playthings that were launched to infinity and beyond. As if space weren't fun enough already.
Just spotted: Gort is clearly visible in this fresh photo showing the Expedition 34 crew (from left are NASA astronaut and commander Kevin Ford, with Roscosmos Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin.)
Dec. 7 2012: Expedition 34 Soyuz Commander Roman Romanenko (centre) holds a toy "talisman" that his nine-year old daughter, Anastasia, gave him to hang over his seat in the Soyuz TMA-07M spacecraft as a zero-G indicator during launch with his crewmates, Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn of NASA (left) and Flight Engineer Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency (right).
Picture: Victor Zelentsov/NASA
The Expedition 33 crew pose for pictures on October 10, 2012, in front of their Soyuz TMA-06M spacecraft. Soyuz Commander Oleg Novitskiy (centre) is showing a toy hippopotamus that served as a zero-G indicator over his head. On his left is NASA Flight Engineer Kevin Ford and on his right Flight Engineer Evgeny Tarelkin.
Picture: Victor Zelentsov/NASA
A Roo in space: Expedition 31 crew members inside the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft attached to the International Space Station (May 29, 2012).
Smokey Bear, a recognised symbol for wildland fire prevention floats freely near a hatchway on the International Space Station. On May 15, 2012, Smokey traveled aboard the Soyuz spacecraft with NASA astronaut Joe Acaba and Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin to the space station.
When Rovio launched Angry Birds Spac" last March (2012), NASA astronaut Don Pettit brought Red Bird with him to the ISS to explain the space-related physics of the game.
A display case in a NASA exhibit featured a bag of LEGO pieces that were flown to the ISS during Discovery's last mission (STS-133, February 24, 2011).
Picture: Maria Werries/NASA
US astronaut Andrew Feustel (on the last mission of the Space Shuttle Endeavour in May 2011) took the Czech cartoon character "Little Mole" or Krtek onto the ISS. Two toy moles were actually taken aboard: a larger 19cm puppet, and a smaller one that was presented later to his creator, the Czech animator Zdeněk Miler, who drew the first Krtek cartoon in 1956.
Picture: A. Feustel/NASA
And beyond Earth's orbit to the planet Jupiter: NASA's Juno spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral on August 5, 2011, with these three LEGO figurines aboard representing the Roman god Jupiter, his wife Juno and Galileo Galilei. These figures were made of aluminium to endure the extreme conditions of space flight.
Satoshi Furukawa completed a scale model of the International Space Station aboard the ISS in November 2011. How meta.
Traditional Japanese toys — a tiger among them — in space. In this photo, taken on January 7, 2010, is Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi, an Expedition 22 flight engineer in the Kibo laboratory of the International Space Station.
Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear with astronaut Patrick G. Forrester. The 12-inch plastic action figure spent six months on the International Space Station in 2008 as part of an educational partnership between NASA and the Walt Disney Company.
Picture: Air And Space/NASA
NASA astronaut Greg Chamitoff, Expedition 17 flight engineer, ponders his next move as he plays a game of chess in the Harmony node of the International Space Station (July 19, 2008).
Astronaut Robert L. Curbeam Jr, STS-116 mission specialist, floats with his Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) spacesuit in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station (December 12, 2006). Just to the left of Bob Curbeam's head floats a toy Orion Command Module, which was brought to the ISS during Expedition 13 when Orion was officially announced.
Expedition 14 commander and NASA space station science officer Michael E. Lopez-Alegria (right), and Thomas Reiter, flight engineer representing the European Space Agency (ESA), share a meal in the Zvezda Service Module of the International Space Station (October 15, 2006). Velcroed onto the wall: a toy model of Russia's proposed shuttlecraft, Kliper.
Expedition 5 crew members cosmonaut Sergi Treschev and astronaut Peggy Whitson investigate how a climbing bear performs in a microgravity environment (aboard ISS) in 2002.
NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson demonstrates how pecking hens, a traditional Russian toy, performs in a microgravity environment (2002, ISS).
Peggy Whitson sure loves her toys. Here she demonstrates how yo-yos work in a microgravity environment (2002, ISS).
Cosmonaut Vladimir N. Dezhurov, Expedition Three flight engineer, takes a break from his duties, as he plays with a miniature basketball and net in the Unity node aboard the ISS (October 2001).
Expedition Three crew members, from left: a rather big stuffed mouse, flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin, Mission Commander Frank L. Culbertson and Flight Engineer Vladimir Dezhurov, in the Zvezda module of the International Space Station in August 2001.
February 2001: The Expedition One crew enjoys a snack in the Zvezda service module aboard, you guessed it, the ISS. On the wall is a toy model that shows the configuration of the ISS at the start of Expedition 1. From top to bottom, the three modules are: Unity, Zarya and Zvezda.
A toy car floats off the table in a microgravity environment aboard the Mir space station during the Euromir 94 mission in 1994.
Cosmonaut Aleksandr Serebrov tests the Ikar, the Soviet's Manned Manoeuvring Unit, with the mascot of The International Garden and Greenery Exposition (February 1, 1990).
Picture: Roskosmos via spacefacts.de
Strictly for educational purposes: NASA astronauts Jeff A. Hoffman and David Griggs with toys for use in Toys in Space Project, in 1985.
This rather ugly plastic housefly flew with Mission Commander Jack Lousma aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-3) for 130 orbits from March 22-30 in 1982. It later sold for $US567.63 at auction.
Picture: Heritage Auctions
Do we miss something from this list? Tell us about it in the comments!