“Panda! What are you doing now?”
“Dude,” Panda replied. “I’m practicing for if I ever go to outer space. This is my weightlessness simulator. See how your kitty toys are floating around me?”“Are you crazy?” I asked. “You can’t practice weightlessness in a toy box! You have to go to NASA for that kind of training.” “NASA?” Panda queried. “What’s that?” “It’s where they train astronauts to go into space,” I replied.“Haven’t you seen that picture Mom has in the china cabinet?” I asked. “The one with the Apollo 16 astronauts? NASA sent that to her when she was in the eighth grade.” “Why was that?” Panda asked. I thought for a minute. “I think she said it was because in eighth grade she wrote a story about a helium balloon that floated all the way to outer space and saw the astronauts. Her teacher sent it to NASA and they sent her back that picture, plus a lot of info on outer space!” Panda nodded approvingly. “That was nice of them,” he said. “Maybe we could go there some day. I think it would be fun to go on a space ship!”“The only space ship you’ll probably ever go on is if you get abducted by aliens!” I responded. Panda didn’t answer. I turned around. “Hey, Panda–” An eerie light was shining on him and then…“Panda!” I shouted, running outside. “What’s going on here? Panda! Come ba-a-ack!” But it was too late. Panda was being beamed up into a giant UFO! The next thing I knew I was being beamed up too!I can’t really tell you what happened next, but before we knew it we were being ejected from the UFO! We landed with a thump out in the middle of nowhere!“Aw man!” I thought, “Now what are we going to do?” Just then some people in a truck drove up and asked if we wanted a ride. We didn’t have much of a choice, so we hopped in.Much to our surprise, they were going to Texas! We asked if they could drop us off in Houston and they said they’d be happy to.Fortunately we had seen this photo from when Mom’s family went to Houston in 1971, so we were able to recognize NASA when we got there.“Wow!” Panda exclaimed. “Is that real? Let’s climb up and see!” “Panda!” I cried. “We’re not supposed to go up there!” I knew I couldn’t leave him by himself, so I had no choice but to climb up too.Well, I guess I don’t have to tell you that before we knew it…”Whoa!” Panda said. “Look how high up we are!” “Seriously!” I mumbled. “If Mom finds out about this we are going to be grounded for life!” “Oh come on,” Panda replied. “It will be fun! Look, I think I see Saturn!”“Panda, get down from there!” I shouted. “You’re going to get hurt!” Panda laughed. “You must have been raised by Swedes like Mom!” Ever since we went to China to see Panda’s relatives, he has gotten really adventurous. Finally he jumped down. “Panda, are you okay?” I asked anxiously. I knew it was my responsibility to bring him home in one piece.Once Panda recovered from jumping down from Saturn, we sat for awhile enjoying the beauty of the stars and planets in the distance.We figured out that we were on Mars, because we found the Mars Rover. We jumped on right away. It was so fun we almost forgot we were in outer space.Eventually we came across some real astronauts, and they invited us to go with them in their space ship. As usual, Panda ran into a little trouble. He grabbed an astronaut’s foot just in time to keep from falling.“Come on, Buddy,” I called encouragingly. “You can do it!”Finally he made it! Together we took in the amazing scenery as the astronauts worked on their ship.
The best part was when they gave us our own space suits and let us walk around outside! We had a blast, until I looked over my shoulder and Panda was gone! After searching for several hours, I had no choice but to return to Earth by myself.Once I got back to Houston I went straight to NASA to report him missing. But when I got there I realized they had already spotted him. “Houston, we have a problem!” I heard someone say. “It looks like there is a panda lost in space!” “Copy,” came the reply. “Sending search and rescue!” Everything happened so fast that I can’t remember how they got him back to Earth. But soon I heard “Houston, we have splash down!”Well, almost!
A little later Mom came in and asked us what we were up to.
“Who, us? Oh, nothing much…we were just looking at Pixabay on the computer…why do you ask?”
New: Here is a free downloadable coloring page to go with this story. It is a PNG file, so you can print it out, or you should be able to color it digitally if you have an editing program. Below is my “practice coloring” that I did on PaintShop Pro. Click here for the link to the PNG file.