2012 has been a year of fantastic achievements in space exploration. From the recent landing of Curiosity on Mars to Space X's Dragon successful docking with the International Space Station, humankind has done what it hasn't done before.
2012 has also seen an unfortunate amount of damage from both lightning and human caused wildfires. We can't prevent lightning fires, but we can all do our part especially when record drought conditions affect much of the country. Be extra careful when using fire or equipment that could cause sparks.
Besides everyone doing what they can to help prevent human caused wildfires, we just got some extra help from NASA right here on Earth and from space. NASA and the U.S. Forest Service signed a Space Act Agreement that unites the two agencies in raising awareness about the importance of wildfire prevention, research, and materials science.
We got another boost when astronaut Joe Acaba selected me, Smokey Bear, to be the talisman for his Soyuz flight to the International Space Station. From 240 miles above the Earth, Joe and I recorded high-resolution video and photographs of the wildfires in Colorado and Utah where you can see plumes of wildfire smoke and recently burned areas. This follows on a journey I took into near space last year.
And I'm about to get a personal boost: I'm spending my 68th birthday, August 9, at NASA's Johnson Space Center Mission Control. I'm excited to see how human exploration of the galaxy helps prevent wildfires and protect life here on Earth.
When you hear that nationwide 9 out of 10 wildfires are caused by humans, it's a potent reminder that even interplanetary support can only do so much. It takes ordinary people like you to make extraordinary things happen.
Step in if you see a child playing with matches or lighters and introduce them to my message. Step in if you see an unattended campfire and douse it out cold. Step in if you see anyone in danger of starting a wildfire and help them stop it before it starts. I'm asking you to take one small step for wildfire prevention, and one giant leap for all humankind.
Remember, only you can prevent wildfires.
Read more about astronaut Joe Acaba's journey in the International Space Station here.
Some of the fires were lightning caused; not all human caused.