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October 18, 2002

Robert Mirelson
Headquarters, Washington
202/358-1600

Kelly Humphries
Johnson Space Center, Houston
221/483-5111

Release: H02-202

NASA Extends First Pitch Tradition Into Space

When Chief Umpire Jerry Crawford calls for the traditional ceremonial first pitch in the first game of the World Series Saturday, the ball will "virtually" travel more than 240 miles, all the way from the International Space Station (ISS) to Anaheim, Calif.

NASA astronaut Dr. Peggy Whitson, following a tradition started by President William Howard Taft in 1910, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch to her battery-mate and ISS Expedition Five Commander, Russian cosmonaut Valery Korzun. The fans at Anaheim's Edison Field and millions of television viewers will watch the virtual video courtesy of Fox Network Sports.

The ceremonial first pitch of Major League Baseball's 98th World Series undoubtedly will be the fastest due to a 17,500-mile-an-hour head start provided by the International Space Station.

Whitson, Expedition Five flight engineer and NASA's International Space Station science officer, squared up on a pitcher's mound more than 240 miles above the surface of the Earth to throw the first pitch. At the opposite end of the Destiny Laboratory, "catcher" Korzun called for the "high hard one." Flight Engineer Sergei Treschev recorded the events on videotape for downlink to Mission Control at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Floating in microgravity made the wind-up and pitch somewhat challenging for the Iowa right-hander, who has been conducting scientific research aboard the space station since June. Nevertheless, Korzun called Whitson's pitch a strike. The Expedition Five crew gave a Space Age "go" for the Anaheim Angels and San Francisco Giants to begin play, with a rousing "Play Ball!"

Whitson and her crewmates are scheduled to return to Earth in November. A new crew, led by Commander Ken Bowersox, will replace the Expedition Five crew after more than five months in space. Bowersox threw out the first pitch for Game 5 of the 1995 World Series aboard Space Shuttle Columbia.

The baseball used for the first pitch aboard the ISS was autographed by the participants in the 2002 All-Star Game in Milwaukee. Astronauts Bob Cabana and Jim Voss accepted the baseball, which went through certification testing at Johnson Space Center before being carried to the space station aboard a Russian Progress resupply vehicle.

"Linking America's historic pastime with the future, through NASA, is a great opportunity to encourage young people to exercise their bodies and inspire their minds. NASA and the ISS proudly join the long list of Presidents, heroes, celebrities and others chosen to participate in a truly great American tradition," Whitson said.

For more information about the scientific research and construction of the International Space Station, visit the NASA Human Spaceflight Web at:

http://spaceflight.nasa.gov

Additional information about NASA and the first pitch is available on the Internet at:

http://www.nasa.gov
 

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