Mementos From NASA's Canceled Moon Program Flying on Space Shuttle
Constellation pins and STS-130 mission patch set against the Lunar Orbiter I first photo of the Earth from the Moon. The 1966 image inspired the 2010 shuttle Endeavour emblem.
Twenty-five lapel pins, each bearing the logo of NASA's now-canceled Constellation program to return astronauts to the Moon, are packed and poised to launch next week on space shuttle Endeavour for a round trip mission to the International Space Station (ISS).
The one-inch, red, white and blue triangular pins appear on the list of several hundred mementos launching inside the STS-130 Official Flight Kit (OFK), a duffle bag-size stash of souvenirs flown on every shuttle mission at the request of the space agency, its partners and the astronaut crew. The contents are distributed post-flight as a small token of thanks to those who supported NASA and the mission.
The kit's contents were approved on Feb. 1, the same day that President Barack Obama released his budget request for NASA, calling for Constellation to be canceled in favor of extending the ISS and launching astronauts on a new fleet of commercially provided spacecraft. The new plan, which first needs Congressional approval, would also fund technology research and development efforts to ultimately send astronauts to multiple destinations beyond low Earth orbit.
Endeavour, which is scheduled to liftoff at 4:39 a.m. EST (0939 GMT) Sunday, is not the first to fly mementos from the Constellation program. Similar logo pins, patches and even Constellation ornaments have flown aboard the past nine shuttle missions since 2008.
Bringing the Moon to the space station
The Constellation lapel pins aren't STS-130's only onboard reminder of NASA's now-in-flux lunar plans: Endeavour's primary payload, the European-built, U.S.-funded Node 3 space station connecting module was named "Tranquility" after the site on the moon where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed Apollo 11's lunar module in 1969.
"I think the name for our module is very appropriate. Of course it means a lot more than the word itself," STS-130 pilot Terry Virts told collectSPACE.com during a pre-flight interview. "There is also the history between the Sea of Tranquility on the Moon and the module."
Virts, who served in the same fighter squadron that Aldrin flew with 40 years earlier, invited the moonwalker to watch Tranquility's launch.
"I had not actually made that connection myself, between Buzz and the name of our module, but I'll have to bring that up to him the next time I talk to him," he said.
Virts has another connection with Aldrin onboard, a small set of moon rocks collected from Tranquility Base. Before their launch to orbit, the lunar pebbles were carried to the top of Mt. Everest by former astronaut Scott Parazynski.
Together with a piece of Everest's summit, also retrieved by Parazynski, the plaque-mounted moon rocks will be displayed inside Tranquility's new seven-windowed Cupola to inspire the astronauts working there.
"Imagine being in the Cupola and looking out this huge series of windows and looking at the moon and having a piece of the moon right next to you. What's that going to be like? I have no idea. I'll come back and tell you," said STS-130 mission specialist Stephen Robinson.
Robinson had a role in including aboard the flight another, albeit subtle, nod to NASA's lunar exploration history in the form of his and his crewmates' mission patch.
The six-sided emblem, which was shaped to resemble the Cupola viewing port attached to Tranquility's side, depicts the Earth as it was first seen in a photograph taken from the moon by Lunar Orbiter I.
Robinson came up with the idea for the patch as he was working in mission control the day after being assigned to Endeavour's crew.
"I'd seen that first photograph of the Earth from the moon, taken in 1966 and I'm one of those guys who remembers 1966 and being excited about things made by humans going to the Moon and maybe people would someday go there," he recalled. "So that was an exciting photograph to me."
Robinson used software from his seat in mission control to simulate the view looking out from the Cupola, took a screenshot, printed and then cut it out.
"All on console I am doing this... I have this idea burning in my head! So I cut out the Cupola from the screenshot printout and cut the little windows out -- and I'm talking to the [station] crew between doing all of this stuff -- and laid it on top of a printout of that picture of the Earth."
"I showed it to the flight director and said, 'That will be our patch,'" recounted Robinson.
And so it was; in addition to the patches that the crew will wear, the mission's OFK is packed with nearly 700 of the four-inch embroidered badges.
Continue reading at collectSPACE.com about the crew's personal mementos and browse the full manifest of the STS-130 Official Flight Kit.
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