The commander-in-chief, President Barack Obama, donned the jacket for a different type of commander while meeting with the astronauts who flew NASA's final space shuttle mission inside the Oval Office at the White House on Tuesday (Nov. 1).
STS-135 mission commander Chris Ferguson, pilot Doug Hurley, Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim, both mission specialists, together with flight operations director and astronaut Janet Kavandi presented the President with his very own blue flight jacket. NASA astronauts have worn the same style jacket for decades when they trained in T-38 supersonic jets.
The president's jacket displayed the embroidered patch for the final space shuttle mission, which landed in July, on the right sleeve. Sewn on just above it, was the patch for the very first shuttle flight, STS-1, which launched in 1981.
The front of the jacket was adorned with an additional three missions' patches, as well as the NASA insignia. Below the agency's emblem on the right chest was the STS-104 patch, the 105th shuttle mission and Kavandi's third and final flight.
On the left chest were the patches for STS-31 and STS-134. The earlier, sewn at top, represented the mission that deployed the Hubble Space Telescope. STS-31 was piloted by Charles Bolden, who Obama appointed as NASA Administrator.
STS-134, the second-to-last mission of the shuttle program and the final flight for orbiter Endeavour was commanded by Mark Kelly. Obama reached out to Kelly in January after the astronaut's wife, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was shot.
Rounding out the jacket's accessories were a lapel pin displaying NASA's shuttle program commemorative logo and a name tag. The Velcro-attached black tag was inscribed in gold letters: "Barack Obama, President of the United States of America"
Obama is not the first president to be gifted with an astronaut jacket. In 1988, the crew of STS-26, which returned the space shuttle to flight after the loss of orbiter Challenger, gave President Ronald Reagan a similar coat decorated with patches that flew on the shuttle Discovery mission.
On both occasions, the astronauts were dressed more like a president, foregoing their royal blue jackets for business suits.
Continue reading at collectSPACE.com to see more photos of the president’s new space clothes.
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Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of collectSPACE.com, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for Space.com and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.