Souvenirs Accompany Shuttle Discovery to Space Station

Souvenirs Accompany Shuttle Discovery to Space Station
STS-116 and Expedition 14 crew members take a moment for a group picture shortly after the hatches opened between Space Shuttle Discovery and the International Space Station. Image (Image credit: NASA TV.)

Roman has a recording. Sunita's got her snapshots. And Bill hashis banner from up north.

The STS-116 crew, living aboard Discovery and dockedwith the InternationalSpace Station (ISS), has mementos and favorite items packed withthem.

Launchedon the evening of Dec. 9, the six membercrew has also delivered supplies for the ISS, a new truss segment, and a newstation resident, who will stay on the ISS when Discovery returns to Earth.

For STS-116 commander Mark"Roman" Polansky, pilot BillOefelein and their four crewmates, the mementos in their personalpreference kits (PPKs) and in the Official Flight Kit (OFK) are souvenirs oftheir just begun 12-daymission to be given to family, friends, and organizations that theysupport. For SunitaWilliams, who moved onto the ISS on Monday, they'll act as reminders ofhome for the duration of her six-month stay.

[View the entiremanifest of the STS-116 OFK on]

"We all have a small amount that we can take up onshuttle," Williams told"For the station we have a little extra [room] that we can take up ofstuff that we can really use while we are up there, like a ball cap orwhatever."

"It's just like your office, where you have pictures of yourfamily or little things that are mementos to you and some of that stuff is alittle extra for station crew members [as] we are going to be there for alonger period of time," said Williams.

The photos she has brought with her include a special member ofthe Williams' family: her "crazy" Jack Russell Terrier named Gorby.

"Unfortunately, I cannot bring my dog [with me] but therewill be a lot of pictures of my dog up there."

Williams also has a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, a smallstatue of Lord Ganesh and a letter written in Hindi by her father, representingher half-Indian heritage.

For her six other crewmates, "house guests" to her newhome, their mementos are stowed and along for the ride.

Most have packed items for their hometowns, states and countries.

For three-time flyer Bob"Beamer" Curbeam, that means continuing a tradition. "Everyflight that I have been on, I always take in my OFK a U.S. Virgin Islandsflag," said the mission specialist and spacewalker. "My grandfatheris from there, so I always take a flag from there."

"Whenever I fly my last [mission], after that I will returnit to the governor and life will be good," he said.

Similarly, Polansky, as the only other experienced crew member,extended a custom of honoring his home state.

"I flew things for my high school on my first mission. SinceI grew up in Edison [New Jersey], I am flying an item for the Thomas Edisonmuseum in the hometown. I believe we are flying a state flag for the governor.There's always a Jersey connection in there somewhere," shared commanderPolansky.

Described in the OFK manifest as a "blue plastic castcylinder" that is 4.25 inches long and 2 inches diameter, Polansky's itemfor the Thomas A. Edison Menlo Park Museum is likely a wax cylinder for thephonograph, the recording device invented by Edison.

For two crew members, the items they fly represent their status asthe first astronaut from their region.

Oefelein is the first to hail from Alaska, the 49th state.

"It's one of the fortunate things about being in the Navy.I'm still an Alaskan resident and can still maintain my residency up I am taking something up for the state."

Indeed, six of the items in the OFK were borrowed from Anchorage, including a city medallion and a white shuttle patch from the ChallengerLearning Center of Alaska.

ChristerFuglesang, the firstSwede in space, has a full compliment of items from his nation.

"I am bringing... the Stockholm city flag with me for thetown council there. I have a Swedish national flag I am flying for theParliament," Fuglesang told to reporters.

"Ihave some things for some of the universities there, which I have been eitherstudying to or earn a doctorate from a university in northern Sweden called theUme? University, and the other ones are Stockholm University and the RoyalInstitute of Technology. Those are some other things I am flying for Sweden," said the European Space Agency astronaut.

In addition to home states and countries, some are also flyingitems for their families.

"I'm taking some things for my wife and kids. I'll probablytake a few photographs for my parents," NickPatrick, a mission specialist, told collectSPACE before the mission.

The items JoanHigginbotham decided to take were very personal to her. "Your space totake personal items is so limited and I struggle with that," she admitted.

"I am taking a picture of my father who passed away fiveyears ago. I am [also] taking a White Sox cap from the World Series," the Chicago native said.

"I am also taking a shirt that I had gotten from our familyreunion. I am taking it because my dad designed it when we went to our reunionback eons ago."

"It's a light purple shirt, and on the front is the skylineof Chicago and it's the neatest design I have ever seen. Of course, I am alittle biased," said Higginbotham.

  • Images: Discovery's STS-116 Launch Day Gallery
  • STS-116 Video: Power is Everything
  • STS-116 Video: Building Blocks
  • Mission Discovery: The ISS Rewiring Job of NASA's STS-116
  • Complete Space Shuttle Mission Coverage
  • The Great Space Quiz: Space Shuttle Countdown
  • All About the Space Shuttle

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Robert Z. Pearlman Editor, Contributor

Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of, 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 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.