A launching space shuttle flanked by an American flag and stars hailing both NASA's orbiter fleet and the astronauts whose lives were lost while flying aboard them has been chosen by the space agency as its official insignia to mark the approaching retirement of the winged spacecraft.
NASA revealed Monday the winning design in its in-house space shuttle commemorative patch contest, which began last October. The selected gem-shaped patch, which was designed by Hamilton Sundstrand camera engineer Blake Dumesnil from Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, was chosen by judges out of the 85 designs submitted by the agency's past and present workforce.
In announcing Dumesnil as the first place winner, NASA also named the judges' second and third choices.
Jennifer Franzo from the Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, placed second with her "Mission Complete" logo, depicting the shuttle in orbit "tipping its wing to the world, as a way to say 'thank you' and 'farewell' just as a cowboy would wave goodbye into the sunset."
Third place went to Tim Gagnon, a former subcontractor employee at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, whose patch designs have been worn by the astronaut crews on shuttle and International Space Station flights. His contest entry focused on the "orbiter coming home for a safe landing at the conclusion of its final mission."
In addition to being the judge's first pick, Dumesnil's patch also topped a "People's Choice" poll that was held among NASA employees in January. Out of the 7,606 total votes, Dumesnil's design received 2,182, or 29% of the ballots.
As his prize, Dumesnil will be presented with his winning art that will be uplinked to the International Space Station and returned to Earth with Endeavour's STS-130 crew. His design will also appear on NASA documents and be used on souvenirs to be sold through NASA's employee stores.
A gem of an emblem
Dumesnil chose a diamond-shape for his patch to suggest how the shuttle has been "an innovative, iconic gem in the history of American spaceflight," its facets fanning out to "evoke the vastness of space and our aim to explore it, as the shuttle has done successfully for decades."
The central element of his design, the space shuttle itself, is bounded by panels depicting the American flag and two sets of stars: 14 in memory of the astronauts lost aboard Challenger and Columbia, and five symbolizing the shuttle fleet including Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour.
The patch's jewel-shape is cradled by the outline of a blue circle, symbolizing the orbiter's realm in low Earth orbit but also alluding "to the smoothness of the shuttle orbiting the earth," according to the caption Dumesnil provided for the contest.
The words "30 Years" emblazoned at the insignia's center reference the anniversary of the shuttle's first spaceflight, STS-1, in April 2011.
The contest, which closed to submissions last December, was conceived by space shuttle program manager John Shannon and his technical assistant Debbie Byerly as an "uplifting" activity for workers as the program entered its final year. Four shuttle missions remain after the STS-130 mission of Endeavour, which is currently in space. Should NASA's schedule hold, Discovery will fly the shuttle's final flight, STS-133, in September.
Joining Shannon judging the entries were Mike Moses, the shuttle's integration manager at Kennedy Space Center in Florida; Steve Cash, manager of the shuttle's propulsion office at Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama; Leroy Cain, Shannon's deputy for the shuttle program; and John Casper, associate manager of the shuttle program and a former astronaut who flew four times aboard the shuttle.
Together, they first chose 15 from the 85 design entries to participate in the employees' People's Choice poll. Though they could have chosen differently, they agreed with the workers' favorite and named Dumesnil the winner.
Shannon will recognize Dumesnil together with Franzo and Gagnon at the STS-130 crew's post-flight debrief in March to be held at Space Center Houston, the visitor center for the Johnson Space Center.
Digital copies of all 85 contest entries written to a CD will fly onboard STS-132, the final flight of shuttle Atlantis.
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