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Leonid Storm 1999: Welcome Home, Spike! We're glad you made it!

One group cheered for the progress of the Leonid Mission more than any other group. Ms. Carson's first and second grade class in room 17 of the Glenview Elementary School in Anaheim, California, rooted the very loudest. I could hear them all the way 'round the world! They were my rooting section. Why was this class rooting for the Leonids? And following our progress? Because of Spike. Spike, the Glenview Elementary School Bulldog!

When my niece, Kristen, heard all about the trip I was going to take, she began compiling a scrapbook. Kristen's scrapbook was soon filled with images of her Aunt Jane in a flight suit, many Leonid web pages brimming with information, the flight path mapped around the world with cities and countries listed, and with melted crayon comets adorning the pages.

Kristen built a memory over the past few weeks. Kristen asked her teacher if the school mascot could go with me on the trip. Now a real bulldog would require some quarantine time and other red tape. So a six inch bulldog, filled with beans, and named by Ms. Carson's class "Spike" was designated to be my traveling companion on my journey.

Spike and I became fast friends. We went everywhere together. When we left Marin County, California, we sent the class a postcard. "We're Off!" Spike told the youngsters. "See you in 10 days!"

Soon Spike was at NASA Ames, in Mountain View, California, awaiting the van ride to Edwards Air Force Base. Click. A photo memory of Spike at Nasa Ames Research Center. We stayed two nights in Lancaster, CA, near Edwards Air Force Base. The days and nights were for aircraft readiness and my practice work for the mission. Spike was just so darn excited, he would barely stay put in my backpack. Sometimes he snuggled in my pocket. Once he got away, but soon he was back where he belonged. He was a very inquisitive bulldog, and wanted to be sure to experience every aspect of the mission. He had a very important duty: to report back to Ms. Carson's class.

Six year old Kristen joined us in Lancaster. She brought her scrapbook, and over dinner and breakfast the next morning, Kristen showed the scrapbook to many researchers on the mission. She asked them to autograph her scrapbook. On one very special page are the signatures of dozens of researchers. The researchers from all the nations represented on the mission signed Kristen's scrapbook. All three women researchers did too. Kristen proudly told one woman that her favorite subject was math. "Math will get you anywhere, I love math the best, too!" replied Dr. Sandra Nierman, a woman scientist on the mission. Soon a researcher returned from his room with mission patches and decals. Kristen's eyes were popping out! Some of the patches and decals went into the scrapbook.

Soon the breakfast room was filled with the blue flight suited researchers. They were soon to depart for Edwards AFB. Dr. Peter Jenniskens drew an aircraft with upward facing windows, filled with cameras and smiling faces in Kristen's scrapbook. Outside the aircraft were comets and shooting stars in Dr. Peter's drawing. "Reach for the stars, Kristen," he wrote, I think! I contributed a page of the expected Leonid Meteor storm. Many faint and brilliant shooting stars filled my drawing. Spike watched all this with growing interest. But being a good bulldog, he settled right down. Click. A photo memory of Aunt Jane in her blue flight suit, Kristen and Spike, the Glenview Elementary School bulldog.

The first thing Spike did in every town he visited was to find some postcards and stamps. Then together we wrote a note on a postcard and addressed it to Ms. Carson's class in Anaheim, California. Postcards from Cambridge, England, Tel Aviv, Israel and Praia in the Azores were written, stamped and mailed. It is not easy finding stamps and postcards, but with Spike's nose for details we succeeded, even in Tel Aviv. It was also hard finding post office boxes to mail the postcards. But we did it! Spike found the post office boxes everywhere!

Spike wanted to be in a lot of pictures. The pictures will go into the class scrapbook. The postcards will teach the class about world geography. Kristen will help her class learn about comet dust and meteor storms. I won't be surprised to hear one day that Kristen will bring her 6 inch reflector telescope to school. Click. Click. A photo of Spike at Kings College Chapel in Cambridge, England. Click. Click. A bulldog on a rock on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea in Tel Aviv, Israel. On the Mid Atlantic Ridge in the Azores sits Spike the Glenview Elementary School bulldog. So far from home! Click. Click. Click went the camera.

Spike also wanted to see all the parts of the aircraft - both aircraft, the ARIA and the FISTA. Spike, the tenacious bulldog wanted to ride in the cockpits of the aircraft. Of both aircraft! Click. Click. Click went the camera. One picture with Spike in the cockpit of the FISTA. Then another night, Click. A picture of Spike in the cockpit of the ARIA. He was a party animal too. Click Click. I hope in dog years Spike is over 21. I might be in trouble otherwise.

In Cocoa Beach, Florida, Spike sent another postcard. Then when he crossed the Golden Gate Bridge to go home, he sent the final postcard. "I'm home, class! See you soon!"

Wow! What a trip Spike had!

Over Thanksgiving, Kristen and her family drove up from Anaheim to stay at my house. Spike, the Glenview Elementary School bulldog was so happy to see her! Today he arrived back at Glenview Elementary School in Anaheim, California. Kristen just told me on the phone that he is sitting on Ms. Carson's desk right now. And that his favorite subject is Science.

Ms Carson's class wrote a special card for us. Kristen brought it to us on Thanksgiving Day. It reads: (and I quote)

Congratulations to Jane and Spike!
They made it!!
November 24, 1999

Dear Jane and Spike,

Thank you for the postcards that you sent to us. They were cool. They showed us where you were. We have some questions that we could like to ask you.

1. How did you get to places soooooo fast?
2. What was it like when you saw the 16,000 shooting stars?
3. Where did you see them?
4. Would you like to do this again?

We would like to invite you to come to our classroom. Please let Kristen know if you can come and when you can come.

Ms. Carson's class

Surrounding the letter were yellow post it notes. Each post it note was signed by one child in the class, and each child drew a picture of his or herself on the post it note. Thanks class!

To Nadia, Joscelyn, Tory, Alex, Juan, Lindsay, Molly, Garrett, Aman, Sarah, Anjali, Jayme, Nicole, Vedant, Maggie, Zach, Tyler, and Kristen, I'll see you all in class soon. I'll wear my flight suit and Spike and I will tell you the answers to your questions and much more! Thanks for being my rooting section. You made the trip special for me!

Jane Houston