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"Spaceball' completes mission, touches down back on Cape Cod

"Spaceball' completes mission, touches down back on Cape Cod

By: Joe Sherman
Autograph of Endeavour commander Capt. Mark Kelly / photo by Dan Dunn
07/23/2011 8:56 PM - Cape League ball orbited Earth 248 times on 6.5-million mile journey

     HYANNIS, Mass. -- The Cape Cod Baseball League's "Spaceball" has arrived back home after hitching a ride on the Space Shuttle Endeavour for its 25th and final mission to the International Space Station, a round trip of more than 6.5 million miles and 248 orbits of the Earth.

     The unique piece of NASA and Cape League history now carries the signatures of the orbiter's six astronauts, including its commander, U.S. Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, who personally cared for the ball during the ship's 16-day mission and took a spectacular photograph of it floating in zero gravity with the Earth as a backdrop.

NASA astronaut Catherine "Cady" Coleman was aboard the International Space Station during Endeavour's mission. She will participate in pre-game ceremonies at the All-Star Game. / photo by NASA.

      On Friday night, fans at Guv Fuller Field in Falmouth were given an advance look at the only amateur baseball ever to be blasted into orbit when Dan Dunn, curator of the Cape League Hall of Fame & Museum, brought it to the Wareham-Falmouth game. Dunn also planned to show it Saturday at the Bourne-Cotuit game at Lowell Park and Sunday at the Falmouth-Bourne game at Doran Park.

     Then, on Monday, it will have its official public unveiling at the Cape League's museum, which is located on the lower level of the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum on Main Street, Hyannis. Dunn said the “Spaceball” will be added to the Hall of Fame museum’s extensive collection of Cape baseball memorabilia at approximately 3 p.m.  The ball will remain there until Thursday, when it will be removed and readied for its trip to Fenway Park in Boston, where it will be on display before and during the Jordan's Furniture Cape League All-Star Game.

     NASA astronaut Catherine "Cady" Coleman, who was serving on the International Space Station as a member of the Expedition 27 team during Endeavour's visit, will be among those participating in the pre-game activities at Fenway.

     "Spaceball" was inspired by Christina-Taylor Green, the 9-year-old girl who died in the Jan. 8 shooting tragedy in Tucson, Ariz., which nearly claimed the life of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).

     Christina, whose family has spent some time in Brewster, loved baseball and visited Cape League games with her father, Los Angeles Dodgers East Coast scouting supervisor John Green. She played second base on her hometown Little League team and had dreamed of becoming the first woman to play major league baseball. She also loved Cape Cod and told her parents that when she grew up she would buy a home here so the family could spend every summer together on the Cape.

     The Cape League has dedicated its 2011 All-Star Game to her memory. 

     Congresswoman Giffords, wife of Endeavour commander Kelly, continues her rehab as an outpatient at a Houston area hospital. She was critically wounded by a bullet that passed through her brain, but has shown remarkable improvement and can now walk and converse with others. She has made several recent public appearances and was at Cape Canaveral for Endeavour's launch on May 16 and its pre-dawn landing on June 1.

     The Cape League first made the public aware of “Spaceball” while Endeavour's crew was carrying out its mission of delivering the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer and an ExPRESS Logistics Carrier to the International Space Station in late May. On July 21, a FedEx package from NASA arrived on the Cape containing not only the "Spaceball," but a Cape League logo patch that was also on board Endeavour, with accompanying certificates of authenticity signed by Capt. Kelly.


     NASA also sent a large, "Star Trek"-style STS-134 commemorative poster signed by the astronauts, an 8x10 color photo of the crew, also bearing their signatures, and an STS-134 mission logo patch.

     Endeavour's six crew members were Capt. Kelly, pilot Greg Johnson and mission specialists Michael Fincke, Greg Chamitoff, Andrew Feustel and Roberto Vittori.