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From Etsy to Earth orbit: Inspiration4 crew packs mementos for space

September 14, 2021

— Hayley Arceneaux is about to become the first person with a prosthetic body part to enter space. She will be the youngest American to orbit Earth. And she may be the first astronaut to have shopped on Etsy to find some of her personal space gear.

As a member of the Inspiration4 crew, the 29-year-old bone cancer survivor and physician's assistant turned to the online marketplace for handmade goods to buy a miniature model of her space capsule. Arceneaux found the diminutive SpaceX Dragon spacecraft from a seller in southern California.

"Beautiful model dragon [sic]. High quality. Wonderful customer service," she wrote in her five-star review of AstronutStudios' copper-plated, pewter model.

It is not clear if the seller was aware of Arceneaux's connection or intention for her purchase.

Arceneaux later showed off the capsule in a video she posted to Instagram in July, sharing a "lil preview of a few things I'm bringing to space."

The model and Arceneaux's other hand-picked mementos are now on board the real Dragon poised to launch her and her three Inspiration4 crewmates on a three-day, privately-funded journey around the planet. Liftoff atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida is scheduled for Wednesday (Sept. 15) at 8:02 p.m. EDT (0002 GMT Sept. 16).

Personal preference

Arceneaux's space-bound items, which also include her late father's favorite neck tie, her parents' wedding rings, models of NASA's early rockets and a small crocheted astronaut doll that she may have also found on Etsy ("for future kids" she noted on Instagram) are part of a tradition dating back to the early years of human spaceflight.


Inspiration4 personal items. Click to enlarge and view video in a pop-up window. (Inspiration4)

For decades, astronauts (and their international counterparts) have been taking small pouches of mementos to space. These personal preference kits, or PPKs, have included gifts for family members and friends, lucky charms and keepsakes to celebrate their spaceflight and remind them of home.

As the first "all-civilian crew" (or more accurately, "all-amateur" as they are not being paid to fly into space), the Inspiration4 astronauts are continuing the custom.

"This print will fly to space," Sian Proctor, 51, shared on Twitter. "It's the poem I wrote for the prosperity seat."

Whereas Arceneaux was chosen to fill the "Hope" seat as an ambassador for her employer and the mission's benefactor, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Proctor won her "Prosperity" seat in a Shift4Shop contest for online entrepreneurs.

A geoscientist and professor, Proctor's winning business offered her original artwork and poetry that she uses to spread the message of a "J.E.D.I. space" — a Just, Equitable, Diverse, and Inclusive space. She is taking with her to space several examples of her Afrofuturism art, including "Seeker," a painting that previously was taken to Challenger Deep, the lowest point on Earth, and to the sunken remains of the Titanic on astronaut-led expeditions.

Proctor is also flying watercolor paints and other materials to create more of her art and poetry while in space and has packed keepsakes from her family and friends to inspire her works. One of those items is from her late father, who tracked the data received from experiments deployed by NASA astronauts on the moon.

"I was born on Guam because my dad worked for the Apollo missions and my dad got Neil Armstrong's autograph, so I have been dreaming about being able to take that with me to space not knowing that it would ever, ever come true," said Proctor, as shown in "Countdown," a Netflix and TIME documentary following the Inspiration4 mission.

Souvenir shop

Proctor plans to auction "Seeker" and some of the art she creates in space to further support the Inspiration4 mission's goal of raising $200 million for St. Jude's pediatric cancer research. The contest she won and the raffle that resulted in Chris Sembroski filling the "Generosity" seat both fed into that fundraising effort.

A former Space Camp counselor and data engineer for Lockheed Martin, Sembroski, 42, is taking a specially designed Martin Guitar ukulele, which he will play while in space. First though, he needed to learn how to play it.

AJ Smith, an award-winning singer-songwriter and recording artist, was happy to be Sembroski's teacher.

"I've had the absolute joy of getting to work with Chris for the last couple of weeks to help him get familiar with the uke as he'd never played it before. And wow, he's come so far," Smith wrote on Facebook. "The dedication to improving his craft as a musician while he's been going through all of this other space prep is unreal and so inspiring. Which I guess is part of the purpose of this historic launch."

The ukulele, which is adorned with the Inspiration4 crew patch on its front, will be auctioned post-flight to support St. Jude's, along with a number of other items organized by Jared Isaacman, the 38-year-old billionaire businessman and pilot who is funding and commanding the Inspiration4 mission (Isaacman is filling the "Leadership" seat, completing the four tenets of the flight).

Among the other items on board Inspiration4 to be sold after being launched into space are:

  • Inspiration4 mission jackets featuring artwork by St. Jude patients and the Inspiration4 crew members, which were created by Space for Art Foundation co-founders artist Ian Cion and former NASA astronaut Nicole Stott. The jackets were handmade by spacesuit replica artist Ryan Nagata.

    "The jackets are fully reversible," Nagata wrote on Instagram. "One side features artwork made by St Jude's children and the other side is silver and patterned after the Mercury spacesuits worn by America's first astronauts. I thought it would be pretty cool to see that little historical nod on a modern space mission."

  • Sixty-six pounds (30 kg) of hops that, upon return, will be used to create a beer by the brewers of Samuel Adams. As the official beer of the Inspiration4 mission, Sam Adams has committed a maximum $100,000 donation to St. Jude.

  • A Fisher Space Pen containing a fragment of Apollo 11 thermal tape and custom Montblanc StarWalker pens and stationeries for the crew to write about their journey in space.

  • Plastic and plush toys based on the five characters from the popular animated series, "Space Racers" and a mini-astronaut plush that will be delivered to the winning bidder with an original collar designed by artist Romero Britto.

  • Four unique, space-themed IWC Schaffhausen Pilot's Watch chronographs representing the mission's values of Leadership, Hope, Generosity and Prosperity. The wristwatches will be worn by the four crew members before being auctioned.

  • Fifty NFTs (non-fungible tokens) from 50 different artists, including Proctor and Stott, as well as a copy of the recent TIME magazine with the Inspiration4 crew on the cover that they will autograph after the mission.

 


Inspiration4 crew member Hayley Arceneaux holds up models she is taking to space, including a copper-plated pewter miniature of her spacecraft, SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule, that she found on Etsy. (Instagram/Etsy)




Inspiration4 crew member Sian Proctor is bringing her late father's Neil Armstrong autograph to space. (Twitter/@DrSianProctor)




Inspiration4 crew members Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Chris Sembroski and Sian Proctor. (Inspiration4/John Kraus)




The Inspiration4 crew is flying to space custom jackets, watches, pens and ukulele among other items to auction after the mission to benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. (Inspiration4)

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