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Shuttle Atlantis flying its flag for final flight

Just some of the thousands of flags flying in Atlantis's payload bay on STS-132, its final planned mission to space. (NASA)
May 12, 2010 — Space shuttle Atlantis is marking its own final planned flight by flying its flag. Thousands of the red, white, and blue "ATLANTIS" flags, miniatures of the type flown over the launch pad each time NASA's fourth orbiter has sat poised for liftoff, are packed inside a modified tool stowage assembly located in the shuttle's payload bay.

The 3,600 four-by-six-inch nylon flags (a subset of which are for sister shuttles Discovery and Endeavour), together with other memorabilia including 700 space shuttle-shaped lapel pins and two almost two-foot-long rolls of gold foil, are stowed starboard, or to the right, of Atlantis' airlock, opposite a similar triangular, trunk-size container packed with International Space Station (ISS) souvenirs.

Both are forward of Atlantis' primary payload, the Russian Mini-Research Module-1 (MRM-1). Set to lift off on Friday, May 14 at 2:20 p.m. EDT (1820 GMT), the flight is slated as Atlantis' 32nd and last mission.

Memorabilia is packed to the right and left of Atlantis' airlock in modified Light Weight Tool Stowage Assemblies. (NASA)
"Both [containers], one to either side [of the airlock], hold memorabilia, Official Flight Kit-type items," Robby Ashley, payload manager for Atlantis' STS-132 mission, said.

The Official Flight Kit (OFK) is a milk crate-size container flown on all space shuttle missions inside a locker located on the mid-deck of the crew cabin. Inside, NASA and the astronauts fly items for organizations that have supported their mission's success.

With Atlantis' interior OFK fully-packed with mementos for the STS-132 mission, NASA desired additional room to fly commemoratives specifically marking Atlantis' final flight.

The starboard, or right side container holds mementos flown for NASA's Space Shuttle Program (SSP) Office. (NASA)
"They added [the additional container to the payload bay] specifically for this when it was obvious there was going to be additional weight capability for launch," said Ashley.

Besides the flags, pins, and gold foil rolls, the exterior tool containers are also filled with 3,000 laminated bookmarks, 1,200 shuttle and 1,312 station program flags, hundreds of embroidered patches, and 16 three-by-four-inch thin metal ingots to be used post-flight to mint coins.

Like the items inside the more traditional mid-deck OFK, the soon-to-be-space flown souvenirs in the cargo bay will be left untouched during the mission to be distributed to employees and VIPs after Atlantis lands.

The port, or left side container holds mementos flown for NASA's International Space Station Program (ISSP) Office. (NASA)
Flying off into the "Dawn"

Packed inside Atlantis, as well as sewn to each of the six STS-132 astronauts' pressure suits, are cloth patches that also commemorate the end to Atlantis' spaceflight career.

"Having the shuttle -- and Atlantis in particular -- flying off into the sunset, I think is certainly appropriate," remarked STS-132 mission specialist Garrett Reisman, who led the patch's design for the crew. "We really felt that, given this point in history, it was really important to recognize that."

But there's a second, more subtle meaning to the emblem that also references a beginning.

"Since the shuttle flies toward the east, we are actually flying into the sunrise," Reisman revealed, "and that sun is rising over our new module, 'Rassvet.'"

Rassvet translated into English is "Dawn."

"So, it is also the sun heralding the new research that will be performed inside this module."

STS-132 mission patch. (NASA)
Reisman told that the insignia was the result of a mini-design contest held among his friends and family.

"We got back almost like a hundred different submissions, it was really amazing," he said, adding the designs came from all over the world. "Then our job was basically taking the hundred different designs and then narrowing it down."

"Several had that sun-peaking-over-the-horizon motif. We thought the symbolism of that was very appropriate. There were two that had the sun over the horizon and the shuttle flying off into it, and the final patch is a combination of the two," recounted Reisman.

He identified the two "winning" design artists as a friend of his sister's in New Jersey and a former contractor to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida who's designed several previous shuttle patches.

In addition to the crew's patch, of which there are over 600 aboard Atlantis, the OFK is flying the results of two other emblem design contests.

All 85 ideas submitted late last year by NASA employees for the space agency's commemorative patch marking the end of the space shuttle program are flying in digital form, saved to a CD.

And the winning design in a children's contest to create a space patch for the animated character Buzz Lightyear is also flying, continuing an educational partnership between Disney and NASA that earlier flew a 12-inch toy version of the "Toy Story" space ranger.

Glass and wood

The results of yet another art-related contest can be found in the form of 17 glass beads in the OFK.

The string of custom beads, each with a space-theme, are flying for Beads of Courage, an organization that supports arts-in-medicine programs for children coping with serious illness. After Atlantis returns, NASA will present the string back to Beads of Courage as a symbol of support to sick children everywhere.

Four of the 17 Space Beads of Courage. (Beads of Courage)
The idea behind the beads and the contest to design them came from Jamie Newton, a Marshall Space Flight Center support contractor employee whose six-year-old daughter has received over 450 Beads of Courage battling cancer.

"It is a great honor to be a part of and support a wonderful organization like NASA," Newton was quoted as saying on the space agency's website. "This opportunity to fly the Space Beads of Courage onboard space shuttle Atlantis will help children battling cancer and hopefully inspire them to be among the next generation of astronauts and engineers; making it possible for all of us to see what lies beyond our Earth."

Newton's glass beads are sharing space on Atlantis with a different Newton's wood.

Among the patches, pins, coins, and flags inside the OFK at the request of the STS-132 crew members, British-born astronaut Piers Sellers packed a piece of wood.

"We have from the Royal Society of London a piece of Isaac Newton's apple tree; the apple tree from his garden under which he was sitting when the apple fell off," Sellers told "Hence, Newton's thoughts about gravity."

"We are going to take up, let it float around a bit, confuse Sir Isaac, and then bring it back and give it to the Royal Society and they'll put it somewhere."

The piece of wood from Newton's apple tree. (Royal Society)

The STS-132 Official Flight Kit Manifest

The following is the STS-132 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. 625 STS-132 crew patches
  2. 50 Expedition 25 patches
  Agency Presentation
2.   800 Small United States Flags   Agency Presentation
3.   5 Sets U.S. States & Territories Flags   Agency Presentation
4.   5 Sets United Nations Members Flags   Agency Presentation
  1. 20 Small Texas Flags
  2. 20 Small Flags of Russia
  3. 5 Small NASA Flags
  4. 5 NASA Patches
  5. 1 Large (3") JSC Medallion
  6. 6 Small (2") JSC Medallions
  7. 1 Bronze NASA Seal Medallion
  8. 1 Silver Shuttle Pendant
  9. Slices of Rock
  Agency Presentation
6.   10 Small (4"x6") State Flags:
  1. Idaho
  2. Indiana
  3. New Jersey
  Agency Presentation
7.   5 Small (4"x6") State Flags:
  1. Washington
  2. North Carolina
  3. New York
  4. Massachusetts
  5. Connecticut
  6. Maine
  7. Rhode Island
  8. Maryland
  9. Texas
  10. Ohio
  11. Florida
  Agency Presentation
8.   3 Small Flags of the Following Countries:
  1. Israel
  2. Kenya
  3. Ireland
  4. United Kingdom
  5. Wales
  6. Vatican
  Agency Presentation
9.   Small (4"x6") Military Flags:
  1. 10 U.S. Air Force
  2. 10 U.S. Army
  3. 10 U.S. Coast Guard
  4. 10 U.S. Marine Corps
  5. 30 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. 5 Small United States Flags
  2. 5 Small Florida State Flags
  Kennedy Space Center Presentation
13.   200 Silver Snoopy Pins   Space Flight Awareness Presentation
14.   25 EVA Patches   Agency Presentation
  1. 10 STS-132 Crew Patches
  2. 23 Small U.S. flags
  3. 10 Space Development & Test Wing Coins
  4. 2 each 0-7 (Stars) Grade Insignia
  5. 4 each 0-6 (Eagles) Grade Insignia
  DoD Presentation
16.   25 COD Patches   Center Operations Directorate Presentation
17.   25 Mission Operations Patches   Mission Operation Directorate Presentation
18.   100 Small Metal Shuttle Tokens   Agency Presentation
19.   5 Buzz Lightyear Patches   Agency Presentation
20.   String of Beads   Agency Presentation
21.   City Flag (3'x'5')   Agency Presentation
Items 22 through 81 are manifested at the request of the STS-132 crewmembers.
22.   Tau Beta Gamma Brass Medal   Tau Beta Gamma, Valparaiso, IN
23.   Green and Black Rubber Bracelet   Eli's Army Cancer Survivors, Ronald McDonald House, New York, NY
24.   Pink Tourmaline Gemstone   Kara Ross Jewelers and Artists, New York, NY
25.   Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Lapel Pin   Komen Rase for the Cure Campaign, Houston, TX
26.   Gold Houston Astros Medallion   Houston Astros, Houston, TX
27.   Blue and Yellow Rubber Bracelet   Team G Force Cancer Survivors, Houston, TX
28.   1.5'x1.5' White Cloth   Northview Elementary School, Northview, IN
29.   White, Black and Orange University Flag   University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN
30.   Computer USB Stick with University Logo   Embry Riddle Astronautical University, Daytona Beach, FL
31.   STS-132 Holiday Ornament   City of Clark, Clark, NJ
32.   Tan Stuffed Bear   Cleft Palate Foundation, Chapel Hill, NC
33.   Operation Iraqi Freedom/Houston Texans Medallion   Houston Texans, Houston, TX
34.   CNBC Red Squeeze Ball   Consumer News and Business Channel, Englewood Cliffs, NJ
35.   Lego Shuttle Piece   Lego Company, Billund, Denmark
36.   T-Shirt   Public Broadcasting Service, Houston, TX
37.   Gold Alzheimer's Lapel Pin   Alzheimer's Association, Chicago, IL
38.   Flag (1.5'x2')   Cub Scouts, Houston, TX
39.   Gold Houston Astros Medallion   Bay Area Texas Baseball, Clear Lake, TX
40.   Greet T-Shirt   Team Jordan Paganelli, Leonardtown, MD
41.   Blue Diamonds VFA 146 Flag (3'x4')   Strike Fighter Squadron 146 (VFA) Naval Air Station Lemoore, CA
42.   Pink Ballet Shoe Coin Purse   Bossov Ballet Theater, Pittsfield, ME
43.   Navy Personnel Command Medallion   Bureau of Naval Personnel, Millington, TN
44.   Naval Ordnance Test Unit Medallion   Naval Ordnance Test Unit, Cape Canaveral, FL
45.   25th Anniversary Medallion   United States Naval Submarine Forces, Armandale, VA
46.   School Banner (2'x3')   Cohasset High School, Cohasset, MA
47.   Kansas Cosmosphere Flag (2'x3')   Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center, Hutchinson, KS
48.   Flag (2'x2'x5')   Dolphin Scholarship Foundation, Virginia Beach, VA
49.   Brass Plaque (2"x4")   Wahoo Swim Team, Clear Lake, TX
50.   School Flag (2"x4")   Maine Central Institute, Pittsfield, ME
51.   Gold Dolphin Lapel Pin   Submarine Base New London, CT
52.   Foundation Flag (2'x1.5')   Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, NY
53.   Jackson-Gwilt Medal   Royal Astronomical Society, Mountainview, CA
54.   Flag (2'x4')   Okfam America, Boston, MA
55.   White Flag (1.5'x2')   World Climate Research Programme, Geneva, Switzerland
56.   Magazine Cover   International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil
57.   Wood Piece   Royal Society, London, UK
58.   Picture of School (10"x12")   Cranbrook School, Bloomfield Hills, MI
59.   Red T-Shirt   Save the Children, Westport, CT
60.   Gold and Blue Society Pendant   Royal Aeronautical Society, London, UK
61.   British Flag (2'x3')   British Consulate General, Houston, TX
62.   Red and White Bicentennial Flag (9"x10")   City of Brecksville, Ohio
63.   Silver Medallion   St. Paul's Catholic Church, Houston, TX
64.   Stethoscope   Bluewater Medicine, Niceville, FL
65.   Gold and White School Letter "R"   Ruckel Middle School, Niceville, FL
66.   Black and White Squadron Patch   Fort Wayne Air National Guard Squadron, IN
67.   White and Red T-Shirt   Chippewa Elementary School, Brecksville, OH
68.   White and Black T-Shirt   City of Broadview Heights, OH
69.   Jersey   Cleveland Cavaliers, OH
70.   Blue and White Foundation Flag (1.5'x2')   Make a Wish Foundation, Phoenix, AZ
71.   Green and Gold University Flag (1.5'x3')   Clarkson University, Potsdam, NY
72.   Team Lapel Pin   Penn Wrestling Team, Osceola, IN
73.   "Brooklyn" Lapel Pin   Borough of Brooklyn, NY
74.   Lapel Pin   Imagine There is No Hunger Campaign, NY
75.   Photo 4"x6"   Peter Pizza, Brooklyn, NY
76.   Photo 4"x6"   JSC Language Education Center, Houston, TX
77.   Black and Silver Plaque   Astronaut Strength, Conditioning and Rehab Group, Houston, TX
78.   Blue and White Flag (4"x6")   Ilan Ramon Scholarship Program, Silicon Valley, CA
79.   Proclamation   National Museum of American Jewish History, Philadelphia, PA
80.   Red and Gray Singlet   Parsippany High School Wrestling Team, NJ
81.   Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction 2009 DVD   Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland, OH
Items 82 and 83 are manifested at the request of the Space Shuttle Program Office and Payload Customers.
82.   300 Sheets of Bookmarks   Space Shuttle Program (SSP) Presentation
  1. 50 ATV2 Patches
  2. 100 HTV-1 Patches
  3. 100 ISSP MER Patches
  International Space Station Presentation
84.   500 Small (4"x6") Atlantis Flags   Kennedy Space Center Presentation
85.   40 Lapel Pins   Agency Presentation
86.   60 NASA Medallions   Agency Presentation
Addendum items 1 through 25 are manifested at the request of the Space Shuttle Program Office.
1.   2 Gold Foil Rolls (3.5"x20.5" and 3.5"x17.5")   JSC/SSP/MA
2.   135 US Flags (2.25"x3.35")   Headquarters
3.   755 Various Countries/International Organization Flags (4"x6")   Headquarters
4.   26 TDRSS Mementos   Headquarters
5.   16 Metal Ingots (3"x4"x.5")   HQ/JSC/MA
6.   1200 SSP Flags (4"x6")   JSC/SSP/MA
7.   Red Thread (for SSP flags); 12 small cones, 30 larger cones   JSC/SSP/MA
8.   10 reams SSP Commemorative Bookmarks (300 sheets per ream)   JSC/SSP/MA
9.   3,600 Orbiter Vehicle Flags (6 packages of 600; 4"x6")   KSC/SSP/PH
10.   700 Shuttle pins (200 w/o the backs)   JSC/SSP/MA
11.   2 CDs of SSP Patch Entries   JSC/SSP/MA
12.   1,315 ISSP Flags (5.5"x4")   JSC/ISSP/OA
13.   1,240 ISS Pins   JSC/ISSP/OA
15.   150 S&MA Patches (6 packages of 25)   JSC/S&MA/NE
16.   150 WORF Patches   JSC/ISSP/OZ
17.   249 WORF Decals   JSC/ISSP/OZ
18.   24 WORF Magnets   JSC/ISSP/OZ
19.   4 WORF Coasters   JSC/ISSP/OZ
20.   300 CMC Patches (12 packages of 25)   JSC/ISSP/OM
21.   300 ISSP Pins   JSC/ISSP/OZ
22.   125 Astrium Patches   JSC/ISSP/OM
23.   49 Expedition 22 Pins   JSC/ISSP/JAXA
24.   70 Expedition 22 Patches   JSC/ISSP/JAXA
25.   3 WORF Wall Plaques   JSC/ISSP/OZ

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