"The NASA Space Station" is the fourth episode of This Is America, Charlie Brown. It first aired on CBS on November 11, 1988. In the episode, Linus dreams about himself, Charlie Brown, Sally Brown, Lucy van Pelt, "Pig-Pen", Franklin, Peppermint Patty, Snoopy, and Woodstock traveling in outer space.
Charlie Brown and Linus are talking over the phone about the models of the U.S. Space Station (which would later become the International Space Station) they are building for a school contest. While Linus' is going well, Charlie Brown is having trouble, and claims that even Snoopy seems to be doing better than he is, although Snoopy won't let Charlie Brown see what he's building.
Linus then goes to bed and falls asleep remembering what he had read about the mission plan for the space station: The station would be launched in the mid-1990's with a crew of eight. These eight astronauts would remain on the station for ninety days, after which a new crew would arrive to relieve them.
Linus begins to dream of a Shuttle launching from Cape Canaveral and docking with the station. A newscaster, Jason Welker, informs the audience that the shuttle has delivered the first Space Station crew and that their identities have been kept secret until the broadcast. Lucy, much to everyone's surprise, has been selected as the station commander, Snoopy as the operator (pilot) and Linus as the station's chief scientist. Several other neighborhood kids have also been named to the crew as specialists: Peppermint Patty is running the crew's exercise programs, Charlie Brown has been put in charge of cooking and photography, Sally is an assistant to Linus, Pigpen will be conducting experiments involving EVAs (spacewalks) outside the station, and Franklin is a social scientist collecting data on how the crew functions together over the ninety-day mission. Franklin's first question is how in the world Lucy was chosen to be Station Commander, given her overbearing attitude. She simply responds, "NASA couldn't resist a pretty face."
Thirty days into the mission, Jason Welker prepares to interview the crew for the first time. However, when the news camera switches over to the station he is shocked to find that the crew are not ready and Lucy is angrily ordering all 'blockheads' on the station to prepare for the broadcast. This is made worse when Linus threatens to reveal that the crew is ready to mutiny because of his sister's attitude. Lucy is about to slug him when Jason Welker interrupts and nervously asks how they are doing after thirty days in space. Lucy quickly backpedals and informs the interviewer that everything is fine.
Lucy takes the TV audience on a tour of the station, beginning with the habitation module. Peppermint Patty demonstrates the exercise bike (to the tune of "Daisy Bell"), Pigpen demonstrates the station shower and Sally's sleeping station is shown (decorated with dozens of pictures of Linus). Charlie Brown also shows off the kitchen facilities and, with Snoopy's help, demonstrates how the crew eats in space. Lucy then moves on to the laboratory module and explains how each module is made of compartments that can be removed and replaced if need be. Lucy then hands the interview over to Linus (while chastising him under her breath to get rid of his blanket, as it is embarrassing). Linus explains that some of the experiments on the station are focusing on animal adaptation to microgravity, because it can't be simulated on earth for more than a few seconds at a time. Therefore, they have brought Woodstock along to see how he flies in this environment. However, Lucy complains that Woodstock couldn't even fly right on Earth, and that he doesn't even flap his wings when flying inside the station. An embarrassed Linus quietly reminds her that millions of people are watching the broadcast. Lucy concedes and decides conduct her own experiment: the old Football routine on Charlie Brown, with the usual results. She concludes that "except for zero-gravity, things in space are pretty much the same as they are on earth".
Next, Jason Welker interviews Franklin, who reveals that the crew are not handling the stress of space travel well. Lucy is an "incredible fussbudget", Snoopy eats and sleeps much more than necessary, Peppermint Patty's exercise program is exhausting everyone, and Charlie Brown is having a hard time keeping things from floating away from the kitchen ("And one of them is having a terrible time keeping his kitchen under control."). Franklin is in the middle of hoping that an emergency will never arise when, without warning, there is a terrible crash, and a shudder rocks the station. Lucy calls Mission Control, who reveals that they have been hit by a meteorite. Linus confirms their readings that a piece of the station's truss structure and one of the solar panels have been damaged, and that someone will have to go out and fix the damage immediately. Lucy tells mission control to stand by while she asks for volunteers. Snoopy is the first to volunteer, due to his flight experience fighting the Red Baron, but, to Lucy's surprise, Charlie Brown volunteers as well. Lucy calls mission control back, but is hesitant to reveal that Charlie Brown and Snoopy have volunteered for the EVA. The mission controller openly laughs at this revelation, but quickly gets back to the task at hand.
As the EVA begins, things aren't going well. Lucy tries a comm-check, but screams into the microphone, nearly causing Charlie Brown to float away. What's more, Charlie Brown and Snoopy are having trouble keeping themselves from floating away from the truss structure. Lucy decides to help by turning on the station's Mobile Service Center (or, Robot Arm), but Linus begs her not to, as she doesn't know how to operate it. As a result the arm goes berserk and attacks Charlie Brown and Snoopy. After a brief struggle, Snoopy is able to overpower the arm and he and Charlie Brown continue on their way to the solar panel. However, just as they are about to reach it, Snoopy abruptly stops and asks Charlie Brown to relay to Mission Control (and the world) that, "This is just one small paw for the USA, but one big bark for mankind." Mission Control is not amused by this all-too-obvious reference to Neil Armstrong's famous speech and advises Snoopy "Don't call us. We'll call you."
A few moments later, Charlie Brown and Snoopy locate the damage to the solar panel and float across to repair it. However, Snoopy can't stop himself in time and bounces off the panel, tumbling out into space. Both Charlie Brown and Lucy panic, but Linus saves the day by calling out to Snoopy over the comm that it's supper time. This snaps Snoopy out of his own panic and he activates a thruster on his suit, which pushes him back to the panel. Snoopy and Charlie Brown then repair the damage and return to the station to a hero's welcome. However, the celebrations are short-lived as Lucy reveals that, although they did a great job out there, they must have crossed a few wires, because all of the station's systems are now going haywire.
Sixty days later, the mission is almost over and the Peanuts are preparing to return to Earth. Linus, Charlie Brown and Franklin are up on the observation deck, taking in the magnificent view of earth through the windows. Franklin expresses his relief at how the crew finally came together as a team. Among other things, they marvel at how clean and unspoiled the Earth looks from where they are. Linus begins to wonder how they can convey to the people of Earth what they are seeing and how they can keep the Earth unspoiled. At the same time, Lucy, Peppermint Patty, and Sally are on the other observation deck doing the same thing as the boys. They are captivated by how small the Earth looks from up where they are, despite how big it really is. They remember great feats of history like the Mayflower crossing the Atlantic, Lewis & Clark's expedition across America and the Transcontinental Railroad. Sally wonders what will become of the Earth, echoing Linus' earlier question. Peppermint Patty believes that perhaps if people followed Charlie Brown's example, the Earth might have a chance. Lucy doesn't understand, but Peppermint Patty explains that despite his clumsiness and other faults (including how Peppermint Patty can strike him out in three pitches), Charlie Brown never gives up in his quest to improve himself.
With that, the girls return to the habitiation module to prepare the station for the new crew. However, Linus is frantically searching for his blanket, with no luck. Lucy condescendingly asks Linus what the matter is and Linus wails that he can't live without his blanket. Lucy retorts that she knows he can, which is why she threw the blanket out the airlock when Charlie Brown and Snoopy came back from their EVA sixty days ago. Linus is shocked and falls into a panic, begging the others to call Mission Control and stop the replacement crew from coming, as he can't live on Earth without his blanket.
In the middle of his wailing, Linus wakes up, safe in bed with his blanket, and realizes that the entire experience had been a dream. After a beat, he clutches his blanket tight and, in a possible fourth wall break, gravely hopes that, "Mission Control didn't see any of this."
The next day, the entries for the Model Space Station Contest are on display at school. Most of the gang have submitted good entries, but Linus' is by far the best, prompting Charlie Brown to wonder who could possibly beat him. Just at that moment, a parade float drives by the school, on which sits a near-perfect, 20-foot tall model of the station, with Snoopy dressed in a space suit happily waving to the crowd that has gathered to see him. Angry at being beaten, Linus groans, "Sometimes, Charlie Brown, your dog drives me crazy!"
- Near the end of the show, Lucy, Peppermint Patty, and Sally mention the Pilgrims. During this, the Pacific Ocean on Earth is visible through the station's window, though the Pilgrims actually crossed the Atlantic Ocean.
- Both Mission Control and Linus indicate that a piece of the truss structure was damaged by the meteorite. This is never shown or mentioned throughout the rest of the show, and presumably remains un-repaired.
- The space station depicted is Space Station Freedom, which was never built as designed. Rather, it was combined with the Russian Mir 2 and European Columbus stations to form the International Space Station.
- This episode was aired only two months after the launch of Shuttle Mission STS-26, which was the first US manned space launch since the Challenger disaster in January, 1986.
- The Peanuts gang make many references to "zero-gravity" in the show. They are actually in a microgravity environment. Because of the station's relatively close proximity to earth and its gravitational pull, the g-forces acting on the occupants of the station are not actually zero, they are just very small. This creates the illusion of weightlessness, although the Peanuts are actually in free fall, as earth's gravity is the only force acting on them while in space.
- Lucy quips to Linus that his blanket is "halfway to Mars by now" after she threw it out the hatch. This is not possible because the blanket would not be able to escape the pull of Earth's gravity by simply being thrown. It presumably remained in the same orbit as the station after being thrown out, and could possibly be retrieved by a shuttle, though the odds of finding it are slim.
- During the EVA, Linus instructs Charlie Brown and Snoopy to walk along the truss structure and not float. This would be nearly impossible to do without being tethered firmly to the station. Charlie Brown and Snoopy are free-floating throughout the EVA, and the station is far too small an object to generate enough gravity to keep Charlie Brown and Snoopy down. Charlie Brown and Snoopy's suits appear to be equipped with thrusters, which would be much more useful in reaching the solar panel.
- The sound effect the airlock opening and closing is a re-use of Ben Burtt's sound effect from Star Wars of a lightsaber being turned off.
- Jason Welker may be a caricature of world-renowned journalist Walter Kronkite.
- Dave Brubek, who composed the music score for this episode, was originally approached to do the music for A Charlie Brown Christmas. He, along with Cal Tjader, turned down the offer, and the role of composer ultimately went to Vince Guaraldi.
- Erin Chase – Charlie Brown
- Brandon Stewart – Linus van Pelt
- Erica Gayle – Lucy van Pelt
- Brittany Thornton – Sally Brown
- Jason Mendelson – Peppermint Patty
- Peter Robbins – Charlie Brown's screaming (archive audio; uncredited)