Shuttle Carries History and Future to Station

What do acolonial shipping tag, a sci-fi series on DVD, a couple of referee's whistlesand a board game's playing pieces have in common? They are all part of thecargo aboard space shuttle Atlantis, now docked at the International SpaceStation.

Launched onJune 8 along with the heaviest payload that is destined for the ISS, the 17.5ton S3/S4 truss segment now installed on the right side of the station,Atlantis and the STS-117 crew also have with them about 1000 pounds ofequipment and supplies, including small mementos and personal items forthemselves, their families, the crew on the space station and for organizationsthat have exhibited support for them and for NASA.

The items,stowed in either their personal preference kits (PPKs) or in the STS-117Official Flight Kit (OFK) are for the most part to make the round trip withAtlantis and will be presented to their owners post-flight. Some however, willbe transferred onto the ISS along with 117's seventh crew member Clay Anderson,who serves as flight engineer for the station's fifteenth expedition. Anderson is replacing Suni Williams, who is scheduled to return with Atlantis on June 21,having set the women's world record for longest mission duration of more than188 days, previously set by Shannon Lucid in 1996.

Anderson's stay won't be quite as long, he'sscheduled to come back to Earth with the STS-120 crew in October but untilthen, he's packed a few items to remind him of home.

"I'llhave photos of my kids and wife, there will be some Nebraska and Iowa State andsome Hastings College paraphernalia floating around, which are the places thatare near and dear to my heart," Anderson shared during a pre-flight interviewwith collectSPACE.

"Ihave some baseball caps and a referee shirt or two. I was a big collegebasketball referee – I say 'big', I was big into it," continued Anderson,who also packed for his trip a couple of NBA-regulation referee whistles. Fox40, which produces the whistles, was reported to have given Anderson fourmini-whistles to fly. At least one of those, per the OFK manifest (reprintedbelow) will be returned to the company when Anderson is back on the ground.

STS-117mission specialist Steve Swanson also brought something for Anderson and hisISS crew mates to enjoy during their off-hours. As reported by the fan createdsite, "BrowncoatAstronaut" Swanson has with him a complete library of DVDs containing theJoss Whedon television series Firefly and its theatrical spinoff Serenity.The discs will be added to the station's growing collection of movies andmultimedia.

As foritems for himself, Swanson hasn't brought much. "Besides taking my weddingring and a picture of the family-type stuff, that's probably it that I amtaking up for me," Swanson told collectSPACE.

PatrickForrester, who with Swanson will make the flight's second and newly-addedfourth spacewalks, has items for each of his sons and wife, as well as"some things for the military units that I have been involved with andsome of the church organizations that I have been affiliated with," hesaid.

Forresteris also credited with creating an item that each of his crew mates has withthem, and for which more than 650 are stowed on-board.

"[Ourpatch] was done by Pat Forrester," explained Rick "CJ" Sturckow,STS-117 mission commander, during an interview with collectSPACE. The insignia,which went through several name revisions as crew members were added andremoved, shows the ISS above the Earth with the components to be added bySTS-117 colored in gold.

"Hesketched that out right after we were assigned, before we even moved into anoffice together. He brought it over and showed it to me and said, 'Hey, what doyou think of this?' and I go, 'Boy, that looks good to me!' and he's like,'Would you recommend any changes to it?' and I was like, 'Nope, that looksreally good," and he showed it to the rest of the crew. We got that patchdone in record time and I figure he got a lot of compliments on it. Pat did agood job with that," said Sturckow.

Pilot Lee"BRU" Archambault, whose seat is to the right of Sturckow's onAtlantis' flight deck, chose "small items for my kids and some relatives,and I am also bringing some banners for the hometown I grew up in and the highschool I went to, a college banner from the University of Illinois, as well asa couple of Air Force organizations," he said in a pre-flight interview.

LikeArchambault, James "JR" Reilly also selected to fly a banner with symbolicties to his past.

"Ihave a flag from the country of Ireland, which is where my grandparents on mydad's side came from that was given to me prior to [my last flight on] STS-104,so it flew on that flight and it will fly on this flight as well," describedReilly. "I hope to take that back to the little village that is down insouthwestern Ireland where my family came from.

"We ofcourse have other items that we carry. I am taking up a banner for the Scottish Space School. Their charter is to foster studies in math, science and engineeringwith students there in Scotland and I've worked with those guys for a couple ofyears now and really like what they do so we're carrying a pennant up for themand bringing that back," he told collectSPACE.

Reilly'sspacewalking partner Danny Olivas also has flags aboard for "universitiesthat I have attended, schools that I have attended," but it was his choiceof mementos for his five children that he hopes gains a special importance byhaving been flown in space.

"Ihave a St. Christopher's medallion that I have had with me for years, I got itas an infant. And I am going to take up a handful of St. Christopher medals formy kids, each one different and hopefully when I come back it will have anextra special meaning for them," Olivas revealed during an interview withcollectSPACE.

Though notdirectly connected to any of the crew members another medal on-board Atlantishas special meaning as a result of its history to the nation from where theyall hail.

A nearly 400-year-old metalcargo tag bearing the words "Yames Towne" and some commemorativemedallions are packed with the OFK inside Atlantis' middeck floor space for theroundtrip flight to the International Space Station. Their flight is in honorof this year's 400th anniversary of Jamestown, Va., the first permanent Englishsettlement in North America.

Stowednearby are metal tokens of a different type, which also celebrate Americanhistory in the form of one of its popular pastimes. Hasbro, Inc., makers of theboard game Monopoly announced last week that playing pieces from the"Here & Now" Edition are along for the flight. Two sets ofminiature icons, including a Toyota Prius, New Balance Shoe, Labradoodle,Motorola cell phone, and McDonald's French Fries, are on Atlantis. The"Here & Now" edition of Monopoly includes a property square forNASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Browse thecomplete manifest of the STS-117 Official Flight Kit, only on

  • Video Interplayer: Space Station Power Up with STS-117
  • STS-117 Power Play: Atlantis Shuttle Crew to Deliver ISS Solar Wings
  • Complete Shuttle Mission Coverage

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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.