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'Columbus' compass' and crew mementos on-board space shuttle Atlantis

A collection of STS-122 compass-shaped patches floats aboard
Atlantis in a bag labeled for mission specialist Leland Melvin.
February 11, 2008 — When Christopher Columbus left the shores of Spain in 1492, he sailed with the guidance of a compass as he sought a quicker route to the West via the east (unknowingly reaching the New World in the process).

Five hundred years later, Columbus is still traveling with a compass, though the direction of discovery has changed.

"We're trying to show the continuing voyage of discovery of the early explorers, symbolized by the ship and taking it from their path, from east to west when they were in their age of discovery, to our orbital path of discovery from the west to east," described astronaut Rex Walheim of his and his crew's mission insignia. "The shape kind of takes in the old compasses that show you directions; that was kind of a nice shape that hadn't been seen before [on a patch]."

Walheim, together with fellow astronaut Stan Love, made a spacewalk today to outfit the European Space Agency's Columbus science lab, named for the Genoan explorer, in preparation for removing the module from shuttle Atlantis' payload bay to attach it to the International Space Station. Both spacewalkers were wearing their mission's compass- shaped emblem, which Walheim's wife had designed.

"My wife came up with the original design," Walheim told during a pre-flight interview. "She's a graphic designer by trade. She's a stay-at-home mom now but she designed the patch."

"Designing for engineers is not the most pleasant activity, if you've the seen results of some of engineers' designs being artistic. So, I think it worked out well," he said with a smile.

STS-122 spacewalker Rex Walheim holds a dried rose near his patch on his arm. He is flying the rose in the Official Flight Kit.
Like the 15th century explorer, Walheim and his STS-122 crewmates launched their mission with a packed ship, as most of the shuttle's cargo capacity was taken by the 22.6 foot long by 14.7 foot wide Columbus lab, as well as their own supplies for the voyage. Still, the seven person crew had a small space in which to fly a few personal items for themselves and for others.

For example, Walheim's brother Lance, a garden expert for Bayer Advanced, delivered him a dried rose that is named for and will be featured in the Tournament of Roses. It was originally planned to be part of the 2008 parade but as the mission was delayed by two months, it will be incorporated into Bayer's 2009 float.

Walheim also chose some small mementos to fly. "I have packed some medallions of our crew patch," Walheim said of the items he packed for his family. "I have got a banner from my school, from the University of California that I will fly with me."

Stan Love, who became Walheim's spacewalking partner after another crewman, Hans Schlegel fell ill, also packed items for his schools.

"I'm flying a t-shirt with signatures for my high school, same thing for my graduate school. My college sent me some stuff to take. The University of Hawaii, where I worked for a year before I came [to NASA], is sending a meteorite because I worked in the meteorite group there. And so it's going to be the world's only meteorite to enter the atmosphere twice," Love told collectSPACE.

As for Schlegel, who was reported to be feeling better and is expected to perform the flight's second spacewalk, he is flying items for his family and for home town in Germany. This is Schlegel's second mission, though he chose not to take anything from his first flight 15 years ago, "besides my spirit," he said.

Schlegel's European crewmate, Leopold Eyharts, who was transferred to the space station's crew and will stay there until the next shuttle arrives to bring him home, also flew mementos for his home region in France but preferred not to share the details, yet.

"I don't want to tell it actually, but you will probably know it when I am there [on the station]," he teased. "I have a few surprises for the people that I am bringing things for."

"I am flying an item for each of my colleges that I went to, I'm flying some things for the Navy, a couple of religious organizations," shared Atlantis' pilot Alan 'Dex' Poindexter.

All of the crew's items are packed into one of two different kits that are standard on every mission. The astronauts' mementos for other individuals are packed within personal preference kits, separate for each crew member. Items for their schools and other organizations, together with items flown for NASA and its partners, are stored inside a single 2 cubic foot container, referred to as the Official Flight Kit.

Among the thousands of mementos in the STS-122 OFK are two (deflated) footballs, one of which is packed for the alma matter of the only former NFL player among NASA's astronaut corps.

"I'm taking up a couple of NFL jerseys, Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys," said Leland Melvin, who had been a member of both teams before an injury forced his career change.

"I am taking up Christian McBride's 'Live At Tonic,' his new album. I'm taking that up because I went to a concert a while back, met him and we talked."

Melvin's also brought some of his own music.

"I play piano and I try to compose some songs every now and then. I've recorded a few songs. At home I have a little studio where I record," he explained. "Everything that was on my computer, it's now on the space iPod so I will have some of my music and quite a few songs."

Melvin is also taking a symbol of his inquisitiveness that led to his becoming an astronaut. "I am taking a Curious George t-shirt that a friend of mine gave me, because that's one of the books my mother read to me every day when I was a child, even before I could read. I always liked the fact that he was curious about life [as] that is something that I have always aspired to, being curious and staying focused on things that are out there," he said.

Like Melvin, STS-122 mission commander Stephen Frick also thought of his childhood.

"Sadly no lightsabers, STS-120 beat us to that punch. Certainly all of us are Star Wars fans from our early days, so we were excited to see that go up."

Instead, STS-122 is carrying three green race flags from the Daytona 500, which like NASA, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Two of the flags will be returned to NASCAR after the mission lands.

NASCAR's three Daytona 500 green race flags as photographed before they were packed aboard Atlantis for the STS-122 flight.

The STS-122 Official Flight Kit Manifest

The following is the STS-122 Official Flight Kit manifest, as provided by NASA. Inventory numbers that are missing indicate items that were removed prior to launch.

No.   Description   Sponsor/Purpose
1.   650 STS-122 Crew Patches   Agency Presentation
2.   600 Small United States Flags   Agency Presentation
3.   4 Sets U.S. States & Territories Flags   Agency Presentation
4.   4 Sets United Nations Members Flags   Agency Presentation
  1. 20 Small Texas Flags
  2. 5 Small NASA Flags
  3. 4 Small POW/MIA Flags
  4. 1 Bronze NASA Seal
  5. 1 Silver Shuttle Pendant
  Agency Presentation
6.   10 Small Flags of the Following States:
  1. Pennsylvania
  2. Texas
  3. California
  4. Virginia
  Agency Presentation
7.   5 Small Flags of the Following States:
  1. Maryland
  2. Florida
  3. Michigan
  4. Oregon
  5. Washington
  6. Hawaii
  7. Iowa
  Agency Presentation
8.   Small Flags of the Following Countries & State:
  1. 30 Germany
  2. 30 France
  3. 1 North Rhine-Westphalia
  Agency Presentation
9.   20 Each Small Military Flags:
  1. U.S. Air Force
  2. U.S. Army
  3. U.S. Coast Guard
  4. U.S. Marine Corps
  5. U.S. Navy
  Agency Presentation
  1. 10 Small United States Flags
  2. 10 Small Alabama State Flags
  Marshall Space Flight Center Presentation
  1. 10 Small Louisiana State Flags
  2. 10 Small Mississippi State Flags
  3. 5 Small NASA Flags
  4. 5 Small United States Flags
  Stennis Space Center Presentation
  1. 2 Small United States Flags
  2. 2 Small Florida State Flags
  Kennedy Space Center Presentation
13.   140 Silver Snoopy Pins   Space Flight Awareness Presentation
14.   25 EVA Patches   Agency Presentation
  1. 20 Small U.S. Flags
  2. 10 STS-122 Crew Patches
  DoD Presentation
17.   15 STS-122 Crew Patches   United Space Alliance Presentation
18.   28 Constellation Pins   Agency Presentation
19.   3 (21.5"x31") Daytona 500 Flags   Agency Presentation
Items 20 through 76 are manifested at the request of the STS-122 crewmembers.
20.   3'x5' United States Flag   U.S. Navy Strike Fighter Squadron Eight Three, Norfolk, VA
21.   3'x5' United States Flag   U.S. Navy USS Eisenhower, CVN-69, Norfolk, VA
22.   STS-122 Silver Medallion   West Galveston County Interfaith Caring Ministries, Santa Fe, TX
23.   3'x5' Blue, Gold and White Nylon Flag   Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA
24.   Metal Dog Tag with Leather Thong   Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA
25.   Blue Patch   U.S. Navy F-14 Digital Flight Control Systems Group, Patuxent River, MD
26.   Bronze Medallion   Pensacola Junior College, Pensacola, FL
27.   Gold Commemorative Medallion in Casing   Margaritaville Holdings, Key West, FL
28.   White T-Shirt   Kennedy Space Center Forward/Aft Shop, Orsino, FL
29.   Bronze Medallion   Georgia Institute of Technology Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps, Atlanta, GA
30.   Red and Blue Patch   U.S. Navy Carrier Air Wing One, Norfolk, VA
31.   3'x5' U.S. Flag   U.S. Navy Test Pilot School, Patuxent River, MD
32.   Grey and Maroon T-Shirt   Tierra Linda Middle School, San Carlos, CA
33.   Deflated Brown and White Football   University of California, Berkley, CA
34.   8"x5" Aircraft Banner   Norsk Luftfartsmuseum, Bode, Norway
35.   Small Wood Box   Country of Norway, Oslo, Norway
36.   Space Poster   Idaho Museum of Aviation, Idaho Falls, ID
37.   School Banner   Hurley Elementary School, Visalia, CA
38.   30"x30" Cloth   Westminster Academy, Webster, TX
39.   Black Patch   100th Bomber Group, Hot Springs, AR
40.   Dried Red Rose   Rose Parade, Pasadena, CA
41.   24"x16" White and Orange Flag   California Institute of Technology Geological and Planetary Sciences, Pasadena, CA
42.   White T-shirt   Winston Churchill HIgh School, Eugene, OR
43.   Slice of Meteorite   University of Hawaii Pacific Regional Planetary Data Center, Honolulu, HI
44.   14"x15" Grey Octagonal Banner   Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, CA
45.   Maroon T-Shirt   University of Washington Astronomy Department, Seattle, WA
46.   50 Year Anniversary Gold Resin Medallion   California Institute of Technology Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA
47.   3'x5' School Banner   Crest Drive Elementary School, Eugene, OR
48.   29"x11" Black Pennant   ABC College of Tae Kwon Do, Houston, TX
49.   33"x23" Scarf   Seattle Lunar Group, Seattle, WA
50.   3'x5' Blue Flag   City of Lynchburg, Lynchburg, VA
51.   27"x30" White Banner   University of Richmond, Richmond, VA
52.   White T-Shirt   University of Richmond Department of Chemistry, Richmond, VA
53.   25"x19" Thin Canvas Banner   Heritage High School, Lynchburg, VA
54.   Grey T-Shirt   Perrymont Elementary School, Lynchburg, VA
55.   3'x5' Fabric Patchwork Quilt   Project Row Houses, Houston, TX
56.   Deflated Football   University of Richmond Athletic Department, Richmond, VA
57.   Wooden Flame Design in Plastic Coating   Lakewood Church, Houston, TX
58.   Small Electrochemical Cell with Probe   University of Virginia Materials Science and Engineering Physics, Richmond, VA
59.   School Note Card   Dunbar Middle School, Lynchburg, VA
60.   Blue Pilot Cap   Lufthansa Airline, Frankfurt, Germany
61.   Bronze College Medal of Honor   Universitat Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe, Germany
62.   Small Red T-shirt   Falcon Pass Elementary School, Houston, TX
63.   Metal Paperweight   RWTH University, Aachen, Germany
64.   Small Stuffed Lion Mascot   Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt, Ornabruck, Germany
65.   White Cloth with Columbus Module Picture   Col-Control Center, Cologne, Germany
66.   Metal Square with Insignia   Boy Scouts of America Pack 848, Clear Lake City, TX
67.   8.5"x5.5" Photograph   Deutsche Raumfahrtsausstellung, Morgenrothe-Rautenkranz, Germany
68.   Bronze Medallion   City of Aachen, Aachen, Germany
69.   White Polo Shirt   Armand Bayou Montessori School, Houston, TX
70.   Gold Astronaut Pin   Agency Presentation
71.   Gold Astronaut Pin   Agency Presentation
72.   Gold Astronaut Pin   Agency Presentation
73.   Gold Astronaut Pin   Agency Presentation
74.   Gold Astronaut Pin   Agency Presentation
75.   Gold Astronaut Pin   Agency Presentation
76.   Gold Navy Astronaut Pilot Wings   Agency Presentation
Items 77 through 80 are manifested at the request of the STS-122 payload customers.
  1. 200 ISS-1E Patches
  2. 190 ISS IE Pins
  3. 25 ISS MER Patches
  4. 25 ISS Vehicle Office Patches
  ISS Payload Integration Presentation Items
  1. 150 ESA Columbus Fabric Patches
  2. 280 ESA EADS Postcards
  3. 1 ESA MARS Pulcinella Ceramic Figure
  4. 11 ESA MARS Decals
  5. 21 ESA BIOTESC Decals
  6. 1 European Space Policy Document
  7. 20 ESA CADMOS French 50th Space Anniversary Certificates
  8. 10 ESA CADMOS Children's Pamphlets
  9. 7 ESA CADMOS Decals
  10. 1 ESA Erasmus Flag
  11. 20 ESA N-USOC Rectangular Decals
  12. 60 ESA EMCS Round Decals
  13. 2 ESA E-USOC Medals
  14. 2 ESA E-USOC Fabric Patches
  15. 20 Medium ESA Flags
  16. 500 Small EADS Flight Mission Certificates
  European Space Agency Presentation Items
  1. 325 STS-122 Pins
  2. 200 CMC ICC-Lite Pins
  ISS Payload Customer Presentation Items
  1. 25 RAMBO Patches
  2. 25 MAUI Patches
  3. 300 Sheets of Bookmarks
  Space Shuttle Program Presentation Items

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