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[b]At left:[/b] The shape mimics the original program patch, including the inner white outline. Inside the patch you see the shuttle touching down - the end of its mission - with its nose held high, into the setting sun. There are 14 golden rays in the sunset in honor of the crews of Challenger and Columbia. The swirls of "smoke" coming from the wheels represent the American flag. Six white stars - one for each shuttle in the program, including a smaller one for Enterprise. The four red-white stripes represent the four decades of the program. The shuttle is landing on the Earth, representing the global impact the shuttles have had, in addition to the contribution of astronauts and hardware from around the world. Finally, the white star at the top represents all of the objects the shuttle has placed in orbit, retrieved from orbit, serviced in orbit as well at the International Space Station.
[b]At right:[/b] The only symbolism are the 14 stars surrounding the shuttle in honor of the crews of Challenger and Columbia.
The focus of the design is the orbiter coming home for a safe landing at the conclusion of it's final mission. The sun is setting on an extraordinary era while the constellation Orion rises in the sky - the next golden age of exploration? We hope so. The crescent Moon and the red "star" of the planet Mars as seen from Earth are prominently displayed as they represent the goals of the Constellation Program. The galaxy is a tribute to the Great Observatories launched by the space shuttle. Hubble, Chandra, Compton and the knowledge gained from those satellites. The International Space Station passes overhead. Now complete, it continues its mission of science and international cooperation.
The inner border is made up of 135 stars representing every shuttle mission. The first star is blue to honor the work performed in the atmospheric tests of the orbiter "Enterprise." The stars representing the STS- 51L and STS-107 missions are gold to reflect on their ultimate sacrifice. The outer border prominently displays the colors of the Flag of the United States of America - to honor the people who designed, built and supported the program with their blood, sweat, tears and taxes. The fourteen stars in the sky honor the memory of the astronauts who lost their lives aboard Challenger and Columbia.
The names of every orbiter surround the design in gold. Each orbiter was assigned a team of people who cared for it and flew it. These names honor all of those people. The legend "Space Shuttle" honors all those who supported the program in other ways. From the administrators to the clerical staff and maintenance workers - and to those who cheered on from the sidelines. The dates 1976 - 2010 were chosen because the first orbiter rolled out of the assembly plant on September 17, 1976 "Constitution Day" during our Bicentennial Year. The last wheels stop is scheduled to occur in September, 2010.
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