The first astronauts set to fly on Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft debuted a new look for their mission patch during a spacesuit fit check.
Crew Flight Test (CFT) commander Barry "Butch" Wilmore and pilot Suni Williams sported the new insignia during a validation test at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The two NASA astronauts, together with their backup Mike Fincke, suited up and tried out the Starliner's pressurized crew module to ensure a good seat fit, suit functionality, audio systems, cabin temperature and day of launch operations.
The test, which Boeing declared a success, was conducted as the Starliner's crew module neared completion and was considered "a measure of confidence" for the astronauts as they continue to work towards their launch, which this month was re-targeted from March to April 2023.
"We are working to have the CFT vehicle ready to fly ahead of the new launch date," Mark Nappi, Boeing's vice president and program manager for the Starliner program, said in a Nov. 3 statement. "With the help of experienced NASA test pilots, Wilmore and Williams, we are closer to our goal of flying a safe and capable spacecraft."
Although the crew validation test was held on Oct. 18, photographs from the event were only released by NASA on Monday (Nov. 7). The images, which showed Wilmore and Williams donning their bright blue pressure suits, also revealed the new CFT mission patch.
Shaped like the Boeing Starliner crew capsule with its attached service module, the emblem depicts the spacecraft launching from Earth atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket. The crew's destination, the International Space Station, is sewn in gray, set against a field of seven yellow stars and the words "Crew Flight Test."
Read more: Boeing Starliner: Live updates
Below the rocket, the patch includes the Starliner logotype and the crew members' names, Wilmore and Williams, separated by the NASA astronaut symbol. The entire insignia is outlined in an orange border, making it stand out from the blue outer fabric of the crew's suits.
The new patch replaces an emblem first introduced in 2019. Created as part of a set, with each patch representing an uncrewed flight test that preceded the CFT, the original insignia was designed with the input of the original flight crew, which did not include Wilmore or Williams.
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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.