Sometime soon, in the first few weeks or perhaps months of 2023, NASA will begin distributing something it has not had in more than 50 years: new patches, flags and other souvenirs that took a trip around the moon.
The Artemis 1 Official Flight Kit (OFK), with its nearly 10,000 mementos from the recently-completed, uncrewed lunar mission, arrived back at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Friday (Dec. 30) after splashing down and crossing the country by truck. Once unpacked from the Orion spacecraft that carried it to the moon and back, the contents of the Official Flight Kit will be presented and sent out to the organizations and individuals who supported the history-making Artemis 1 mission.
Whether any of those newly-minted moon collectibles — the first created by the U.S. since the end of the Apollo program in 1972 — reach the general public is still to be seen. If past precedence holds true, some of the memorabilia will make its way into enthusiasts' hands, either coming directly from NASA and its contractors or by being passed on by their original recipients.
While collectors wait for those items to become available, the new year brings with it other opportunities to celebrate space exploration through new offerings in 2023.
Related: The 10 greatest images from NASA's Artemis 1 moon mission
Stamps and coins
It is not yet known if the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) will be releasing any new space-related postage stamps this year. Though it has already previewed many of the issues planned for the next 12 months and none of those have had a NASA or space theme, there is still a chance that one (or more) could come.
USPS officials advised that what has been shown to date is only a partial list, "with more to be revealed in the weeks and months ahead."
A quick search of several other countries' stamp programs returned only a few space commemoratives planned for 2023 thus far. Most prominently, Russia has a new stamp coming out that pictures its medal for "Merits in Space Exploration," part of a series of stamps devoted to the awards of the Russian Federation, which is set for release later this month. Russia also has plans for a still be revealed stamp sheet dedicated to Luna 25, the nation's first moon mission since the fall of the Soviet Union, to be issued in May (the mission is tentatively planned to launch later this year).
Like the USPS, the U.S. Mint has yet to announce any space-related coins or medallions to be struck in the upcoming year. The Mint's ongoing programs that have included space themes, such as the American Innovation dollar coins and the American Women quarters, are focused on other subjects in 2023.
One possible release might be the bronze replicas of the Congressional Gold Medals honoring "Hidden Figures," the Black women who worked for NASA as "human computers" during the early years of spaceflight. Authorized by Congress in 2019, the designs for the five medals — one each for manager Dorothy Vaughan, mathematician Katherine Johnson and engineers Mary Jackson and Christine Darden, as well as a group award — were last reviewed in late 2020.
Toys and models
The most anticipated space collectibles of 2023 may be the launch of Mattel's line of toys inspired by SpaceX.
As announced last July, the global toy company has entered into a multi-year agreement with Elon Musk's commercial spaceflight firm to make and market toys and "elevated collectibles" based on SpaceX's rockets and spacecraft. No specifics have been revealed yet, but Mattel said the first toys would be released through its Matchbox and Mattel Creations brands sometime this year.
SpaceX is expected to launch its Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket together for the first time in 2023. The test flight (or flights) will advance NASA's plans to use a version of the Starship to land the next humans on the moon.
Another release this year are the limited edition NASA astronauts as part of Funko's Soda line of vinyl figures. Originally expected to ship in September of last year, the soda can-packed astronauts only began showing up in retail stores in late December, with their wide release now scheduled for this month.
Lego, which flew four minifigures in the Artemis 1 OFK, has not announced any new space-themed sets for 2023, though a rumor of a Technic version of NASA's Perseverance Mars rover began to spread online just before the new year.
Mission patches and more
For book collectors, 2023 will bring a new collection of early spaceflight imagery ("Photographing America's First Astronauts: Project Mercury Through the Lens of Bill Taub" by J.L. Pickering and John Bisney, Purdue University Press) and an astronaut's guide to stepping out in space ("How to Spacewalk: Step-by-Step with Shuttle Astronauts" by Kathy Sullivan with Michael Rosen, MIT Kids Press) among many other titles.
For autograph collectors, perhaps the highest profile crew to be announced in years is set to be revealed with the selection of the four astronauts chosen to fly on Artemis 2, the first mission of NASA's new moon program. All that is known about the contingent today is that one of the astronauts will be Canadian.
The Artemis 2 crew announcement could also be followed by the release of an Artemis 2 mission patch, though when that might occur, if at all, this year is unknown. More certain for 2023, will be the release of the patch for Boeing's first CST-100 Starliner Crewed Flight Test (CFT), slated for launch to the International Space Station in April.
Other notable insignia for this year may include the first flight patches for SpaceX's Starship and United Launch Alliance's Vulcan rocket.
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