Shuttle Astronauts Share Space Through Souvenirs

Shuttle Astronauts Share Space Through Souvenirs
Examples of patches, pins and more onboard shuttle Discovery. (Image credit:

Armstrongand Buzz are in space again, though they aren't the Apollo astronauts who madehistory walking on the Moon.

Rather,cyclist Lance Armstrong and 'space ranger' Buzz Lightyear are sharing spaceaboard shuttle Discovery, now docked to the International Space Station. Andthey are not alone; joining them for the 14-day mission are retired HoustonAstros' player Craig Biggio and New York Giants' quarterback Eli Manning.

Of course,none of the individuals (and fictional character) are themselves in space, butthe crew of STS-124 chose to take items representing each of them aboard theorbiter.

"Well,he's this super human" said astronaut Karen Nyberg of Lance Armstrong duringan interview with before she launched."I just love his athletic abilities. I am taking one of his [Tour deFrance] yellow jerseys."

Similarly,Manning's back-up Super Bowl XLII jersey and Biggio's last game-worn jerseyhave places in the orbiting locker room. Four of the crew members hail from theNew York/New Jersey area, home to Manning's Giants, and all live, train andtake instruction while in space from mission control in Houston, south of theAstros' Minute Maid Park.

Lightyear,or a 12-inch actionfigure-version of the Disney and Pixar "Toy Story" spaceman, will"fly" from Discovery to the space station for a six month stay,kicking off an educational partnership between NASA and the house that Waltbuilt.

Thestowaways are part of the crew's "personal preference kits" (PPKs),small pouches that hold mementos — not just for celebrities. A majority ofthe souvenirs are for their friends and family.

"Ryan,he has this little bullet that he used to carry around since he was a littlekid. I know that sounds terrible but it's a spent rifle bullet and it justmeans something to him. I don't know why. So, we're flying that," pilotKen Ham told about one of his two son's items. "And thenRandy, he's a big Green Bay Packers fan, so he's got this Brett Farvething."

SpacewalkerMike Fossum also took items for his boys.

"Mysecond son John is 17, and he's finishing up his [Boy Scouts'] Eagle and Ibrought up on my first flight his Eagle badge but [on this flight, I have his]pin that will be pinned onto him during his Eagle ceremony. I flew my olderson's [pin] on my first flight, he's already earned his. This time I am flyinghim a larger Eagle patch that he can have made properly framed and display inhis office some day," said Fossum, who serves as a Scoutmaster of aHouston local Boy Scouts troop.

GregChamitoff, who joined the ISS'sExpedition 17 crew after docking, is the second crewmen of Jewish descentto live aboard the station (the first, Garrett Reisman, will return to Earthwith Discovery). He brought with him a pair of mezuzot as gifts for a formerteacher and a friend. The encased, prayer-inscribed parchment customarilyplaced on the door frames of Jewish homes were designed by an Israeli artistwho was inspired by space exploration. "I will install them [on the doorof my sleep area], take pictures and then put them away," said Chamitoff.

The PPKscan also include small items for the astronauts themselves.

Nybergbrought a few pieces of fabric with her to knit into a quilt after the flight."My mom taught me to sew when I was six. So I grew [up] sewing, making my ownclothes," she said.

Beyondtheir personal kits, the astronauts could also pack items for organizations intheir mission's Official FlightKit (OFK), a larger stash of official presentation items. In the STS-124OFK there is a patch for Jet Blue Airlines; World Series pins for both theWhite Sox and Astros teams; and ocean water for the U.S. Merchant MarineBooster Club in Kings Point, NY.

Ham has amicrophone stand for ESPN. Spacewalker Ron Garan has a silver coin for theManna Energy Foundation, which he founded to combat poverty. Fossum flew a flagfor his alma mater, Texas A&M University, continuing his display of Aggiepride that he started during his first flight.

Nyberg, asthe University of North Dakota's first alumna to fly in space, took a flag anda certificate for the school, as well as a compact disc. "The School of Engineering has sent a disc that has the names of all the students, faculty andstaff since I think 1897, whenever the school started."

Themission's primary payload, the Japanese pressurized module, the primarycomponent of the three-partKibo lab and the longest component to be added to the outpost, isrepresented on the crew by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) missionspecialist Aki Hoshide. He chose items for several schools in Japan as well as a package of Zelkova Serrata tree seeds for the government of Tokyo.

"Weare [flying] a Japanese flag, but the Kibo itself is the commemorative item, Ithink," said Hoshide.

Click here toread the full manifest of the STS-124 Official Flight Kit.

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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.