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Shuttle lifts-off with 7 crew, 6000 mementos (STS-121 OFK)

July 4, 2006

— Space shuttle Discovery launched the seven-person crew of STS-121 to orbit today (July 4), and with them, each took personal items to make their 12-days in space (or five months, as in the case of the soon-to-be space station resident on-board) a bit more like their life back on Earth.

The mission, NASA's 115th to be launched by the shuttle and the second test flight to follow the Columbia accident in 2003, carries in addition to the crew, 5,100 pounds of supplies and equipment for the International Space Station and new hardware to test shuttle safety techniques and perform repairs to the outpost. Stowed aboard Discovery's middeck are also thousands of fruit flies for an experiment dedicated to understanding the human immune system.

Inside a separate locker is the mission's Official Flight Kit, a collection of over 6,400 mementos being flown on behalf of NASA, its partner contractors and countries, and the organizations that have supported the crew of STS-121.

"I am carrying [inside the Official Flight Kit] a banner from the Merchant Marine Academy, [and] I believe, a hat from there," pilot Mark Kelly told collectSPACE during a series of interviews conducted several weeks earlier with the crew. "That's where I went to school as an undergrad. I am carrying stuff for them."

Separate from the Official Flight Kit (OFK), each crew member can carry a "personal preference kit," a small package of memorabilia for family and friends that NASA limits to 20 items and 1.5 pounds each.

"Personally, [I am carrying] stuff for my kids," said Kelly. "Some charms and stuff [for] my parents, my girlfriend, that sort of thing... mostly jewelry."

For their schools, civic groups and other groups, the crew members are each alocated a few items in the OFK.

"Some of the stuff actually belongs to [STS-121 mission specialist] Piers [Sellers]. "If you see the United Kingdom stuff in there, its not me. I gave him some of my spots," explained Kelly.

Sellers, who was born in the United Kingdom but is a U.S. citizen, has made local-U.K. headlines leading up to the today's launch for taking with him flags from schools in England and Scotland.

"I'm taking a few little things for family and friends, and a few things for the training team, the guys who spent years preparing us for this mission and training us. And a few flags and emblems for other organizations. Nothing much, nothing that you couldn't fit into a shoebox," Sellers told collectSPACE.

Collectors on the crew

Though the two women on the crew consider themselves collectors, neither is carrying items from their hobbies.

"I have a large collection of rubber stamps," described first-time mission specialist Lisa Nowak. "I like to make cards with them and sometimes just play with them. My little girls recently found out there are all kinds artwork they can create with them, not necessarily all on paper."

Asked if she was therefore flying a rubber stamp with her to space, Nowak admitted to overlooking that possibility.

"That would have been a good thing! I didn't put down that on my list of things, but no I am not taking one."

Instead, Nowak is taking with her a more personal item.

"My grandmother died a few years ago at age almost 100, and one of the special presents she left to me was her very beautiful engagement ring. I am taking that with me. That's probably one of the most treasured items that's going up there," she said.

Nowak's fellow female crewmate also collects stamps but of a different kind: the banned-from-flight postal variety.

"We are not allowed to bring any stamps to space, much to my dismay," said mission specialist Stephanie Wilson.

Federal regulations for the personal preference kits (PPK) and OFK specifically preclude "items such as philatelic materials and coins that, by their nature lend themselves to exploitation by the recipients."

Exploitation however, is far from the reason why Wilson collects stamps.

"I started collecting stamps pretty young, I believe when I was eight," described Wilson. "I mostly collect stamps off letters that I receive. I usually don't go out and purchase stamps but I like to be able to tell a story about a stamp: it came from this individual, on this card."

"So, its probably not worth very much," continued Wilson, "but its more sentimental than probably a pristine stamp collection. Its interesting to me to see the designs of the different stamps from the various countries."

Her stamp remaining on Earth, Wilson chose other items special to her, including a bible.

"I have a few personal items for family members. From the Buffalo Solider Museum that is here in Houston, I am flying a flag commonly flown by one of the regiments of the Buffalo Soliders," she said.

Showing school spirit

Wilson is also carrying items from her graduate school, the University of Texas, which is the subject of a good natured rivalry with mission specialist and Texas A&M University alum Michael Fossum.

Said Wilson, "We both try to have a lot of paraphernalia from our schools. In general, when [Mike's] performing a run in our pool in the Neutral Bouyancy Laboratory, he has a bandana that has Texas A&M on it and so for different events, we'll have different mementos or memorabilia from our schools.

"I think the pictures on orbit will be interesting as we bring out the various memorabilia. I am hoping that none of mine will be missing and I am sure he's hoping none of his will be missing as well," Wilson said.

Indeed, Fossum says he hopes that both his, and more importantly, Wilson's mementos stay in their respective control.

"I certainly have my mementos that I have tucked away and I know she does, too," Fossum told collectSPACE. "I suspect we might both see a little of each others.

"My biggest fear is I'll be getting ready to go out the door for my spacewalk, and she's one of the people that will actually be helping me get into the suit and get to get prepared, and that she's going to do something like put a [University of Texas] Longhorn sticker on my forehead," joked Fossum. "I'll never live it down."

Fossum will 'be prepared' for anything Wilson plans, as obtaining the rank of Eagle in the Boy Scouts taught him. Still an active scout leader, he is flying badges that both he and his son earned.

"I am carrying a couple of [boy scout] uniform parts with me into space. I'm carrying actually my Eagle pin from when I earned my Eagle as a scout. I'm carrying one that my older son earned about a year ago. I am carrying it for him," Fossum told collectSPACE.

Digital deliveries

In addition to the tangible trinkets, the crew is also taking electronic files that are personal to them.

"We actually carry iPods now [so] I had my son put a lot of [music] on there for me," Commander Steven Lindsey said. "I'm not really exactly sure what I have on there. He promises that it is music that I am going to like but I've heard some of the stuff he listens to and I'm not sure I will. But fortunately, I hardly have any time to listen to it."

For European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Reiter, the only STS-121 crewmember who will remain on the space station after Discovery undocks, electronic archives mean the ability to carry more for his five month mission than if he had been limited to hard copies.

"I also had the chance to take some personal items, most of it in electronic format. That is, by the way, also one of the big differences to my stay on-board the Russian space station Mir," Reiter told collectSPACE. "The music I had to record on minidiscs and I had to take it up. Nowadays, everything can be put in electronic form: music, electronic books, pictures of the family."

"And of course, I also take also some paper pictures, some patches from my military flying squadron, from my university, from my hometown with me."

In fact, most of Reiter's personal mementos weren't his to choose.

"My family prepared a little surprise packet for me. Of course I don't know yet what is in it, it's already stowed, so as soon as we get on orbit and it is unpacked, it will be quite interesting to see what they were thinking of and what they provided there."


Space shuttle Discovery lifts off from Kennedy Space Center on July 4, 2006, with the crew of mission STS-121. (collectSPACE)

The STS-121 Official Flight Kit Manifest

The following is the STS-121 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




625 STS-121 Crew Patches


Agency Presentation




600 Small United States Flags


Agency Presentation




3 Sets U.S. States & Territories Flags


Agency Presentation




3 Sets United Nations Members Flags


Agency Presentation




  1. 20 Small Texas Flags

  2. 20 Small NASA Flags

  3. 5 NASA Lapel Pins

  4. 5 NASA Patches

  5. 2 Gold Space Station Lapel Pins

  6. 2 Texas Lapel Pins

  7. 5 U.S.~Italy Friendship Pins

  8. 5 U.S.~Germany Friendship Pins

  9. 3 Large JSC Medallions

  10. 8 Small JSC Medallions

  11. 1 Large Pewter NASA Medallion

  12. 1 Large Bronze NASA Medallion


Agency Presentation



Small Flags of the Following States:

  1. 20 California

  2. 10 Nebraska

  3. 20 Texas

  4. 10 New Jersey

  5. 10 South Dakota

  6. 20 Maryland

  7. 10 Colorado

  8. 10 Massachusetts


Agency Presentation



Small Flags of the Following Countries:

  1. 100 Italy

  2. 100 Germany

  3. 20 United Kingdom

  4. 10 Ireland

  5. 2 Jamaica

  6. 2 Puerto Rico

  7. 2 United Nations

  8. 20 China


Agency Presentation



Small Military Flags:

  1. 20 U.S. Air Force

  2. 20 U.S. Navy

  3. 20 U.S. Marine Corps

  4. 10 U.S. Army

  5. 10 U.S. Coast Guard


Agency Presentation



  1. 10 Small United States Flags

  2. 10 Small Alabama State Flags


Marshall Space Flight Center Presentation



  1. 2 Small United States Flags

  2. 10 Gold Medallions


Kennedy Space 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. 200 Silver Snoopy Pins

  2. 100 Small Discovery Flags

  3. 200 Small ISS Flags


Space Flight Awareness Presentation




50 EVA Patches


Agency Presentation



50 MOD Patches


Agency Presentation



25 Center Operations Embroidered Patches


Agency Presentation




  1. 90 Small United States Flags

  2. 25 DDMS Patches

  3. 20 MAUI Payload Experiment Patches

  4. 3 1st Range Ops Medallions

  5. 6 Military Insignia

  6. 3 Navy Patches


DoD Presentation




120 Small Gold and White Longhorn Pins


Agency Presentation




8 Medium Mars Flags


Agency Presentation




School T-Shirt


John H. Guyer High School, Denton, TX


Items 20 through 84 are manifested at the request of the STS-121 crewmembers.




Blue and Orange Honors Sash


University of Texas at San Antonio, TX




Band T-Shirt


Clear Brook High School, Friendswood, TX




Uniform Top


Winter Guard, Friendswood, TX




Silver Air Force Medallion


Air Force Institute of Technology, Dayton, OH




Polo Shirt


University of Houston, Houston, TX




Nebraska Flag


Burwell Senior Citizens Center, Burwell, NE






Boy Scout Troup 161, Temple City, CA




United States Flag


1st Church of the Nazarene, Pasadena, CA




United States Flag


Abraham Lincoln Traditional School, Phoenix, AZ




Society Flag


British Interplanetary Society, London, England




Red Baseball Cap


Tower of London, London, England






International Satellite Land Surface Climatology Project, Greenbelt, MD




Round Gold Ingot


United States Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, NY




Gold Bar


U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Alumni Assoc., Kings Point, NY




Gold Bar


U.S. Merchant Marine Regiment of Midshipman, Kings Point, NY




Signed Class T-Shirt


Gold HIll School, Fullerton, CA




Corsican Flag


City of Ajaccio, Corsica, France




Committee Banner


National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, New York, NY




Air Force Patch


Air Force Academy Squadron 11, Colorado Springs, CO




Aeronautical Systems Center Commander Medallion


Air Force Material Command/Aeronautical Systems Center, Wright-Patterson




University Flag


Texas A&M University, College Station, TX




Cadet Flag


Corp of Cadets, College Station, TX




Philmont Staff Patch


Philmont Boy Scout Ranch, Cimarron, NM




Council Identification Patch


Rio Grande Council of Boy Scouts, Harlingen, TX




Lodge Pocket Flap Patch


Wewanoma Boy Scout Lodge, Harlingen, TX




Council Identification Patch


Sam Houston Area Boy Scouts, Houston, TX




Large Boy Scout Patch


Order of the Arrow, Boy Scouts of America, Irving, TX




Nickel Bar


Air Force Academy Association of Graduates, Colorado Springs, CO




School Flag


McAllen High School, McAllen, TX




University Flag


Rice University, Houston, TX




White Quilt/Red Backing


Stearns Elementary School, Pittsfield, MA




White and Green School Pennant


Crosby Elementary School, Pittsfield, MA




Green School Banner


Taconic High School, Pittsfield, MA




Crimson Banner


Harvard University Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Cambridge




White Banner


University of Texas Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, Austin, TX




STS-121 Silver Medallion


Harvard University Atmospheric Research Project, Boston, MA




Company Flag


Buffalo Soliders National Museum, Houston, TX




United States Flag


American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Denver, CO




Red Baseball Cap


National Brotherhood of Skiers, Pasadena, CA




Photo of Museum


The Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield, MA




Class of '85 Flag


United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD






Navy Aerospace Engineering Corp., Washington, DC






Tilden Middle School, Rockville, MD




Silver Pin with Statue of Liberty Face


National Organization of Italian American Women, New York, NY




Blue School Lanyard


Luxmanor ELementary School, Rockville, MD




Blue School Patch with Eagle


United States Naval Test Pilot School, Patuxent River, MD




Gold Pin with Simulated Diamonds and Emeralds


Saint Elizabeth Church, Houston, Texas




Gold Pin with Purple Violet


African Violet Society, Beaumont, TX




Round Space Patch


Boy Scouts of America, Irving, TX




Rectangular Space Patch


Girl Scouts of America, Irving, TX




Green Flag


House of Commons, London, England




Red Flag


House of Lords, London, England




Green and White University Flag


Leeds University, Leeds, United Kingdom




Climbing Carabiner (Metal Ring)


Ed Tom Foundation, Houston, TX






Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation, Houston, TX




Flag on Small Staff


Blue Peter British Children's Program, London, England




Foundation Flag


Make-A-Wish Foundation, Houston, TX




2004 Class Picture


Cranbrook School, Kent, United Kingdom




School Patch


Edinburgh University, Edinburgh, United Kingdom




Large Silver Royal Society Medallion


The Royal Society, London, England (UK National Academy of Science)




Gold Astronaut Pin


Agency Presentation




Gold Astronaut Pin


Agency Presentation




Gold Astronaut Pin


Agency Presentation




Gold Astronaut Pin


Agency Presentation




Gold Air Force Wings


Agency Presentation


Items 85 through 94 are manifested at the request of the STS-121 payload customers.




  1. 150 ULF 1.1 Cloth Patches

  2. 200 ULF 1.1 Decals

  3. 200 ULF 1.1 Pins

  4. 25 Increment 13 Pins


ULF 1.1 Payload Customer Presentation





  2. 200 FPMU Decals



  5. 48 Engineering Support Contract Patches

  6. 100 FIT Placards

  7. 50 POEMS Placards

  8. 45 Space Life Sciences Lab Patches

  9. 49 ISS Research and Technology Patches


JSC ISS Payloads Customer Presentation




  1. 100 STS-121 Crew Patches

  2. 15 SEM Satchel Placards


SPACEHAB Presentation




100 Italian-ALTEC Pennants


Italian Space Agency (ASI) Presentation




  1. 200 LMC Decals

  2. 50 LMC Patches

  3. 50 LMC Pins


Goddard Space Flight Center LMC Presentation




  1. 100 DTO 849 Pins

  2. 50 DTO 851 Patches

  3. 30 DTO 851 Patches

  4. 200 DTO 848 Decals

  5. 2 RCC Repair Decals/1 Pennant

  6. 200 DTO 848 Patches


Customer DTO Presentation




  1. 250 Decals

  2. 150 Patches


Wireless Instrumentation System Presentation




300 Sheets SSP Bookmarks


Space Shuttle Program Presentation




50 MAUI Patches


DoD Presentation Items




1 Dominican Republic Flag


Agency Presentation


STS-121 OFK Addendum: Expedition 13 Crewmember Thomas Reiter (Up on STS-121 — Over to ISS — Down on STS or Soyuz)

Expedition 13 — ISS Official Flight Kit (OFK)






City of Neu Isenburg, Germany






Der Weg Der Steine Project (The Journey of the Rock), Neu Isenburg






Astrolab - ESA






European Astronaut Centre





European Space Agency (ESA)






ESA - DLR (German Space Agency)






European Union

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