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First astronaut to test land a shuttle 'signs' off on fundraising patches

November 28, 2022

— A new offer for an astronaut-inspired space patch has the power to "beam up" Native American girls to Space Camp.

The "Signature Edition Enterprise Commander Fred W. Haise, Jr." patch, created by and available from the almost 35,000-member Space Hipsters group on Facebook, celebrates the first astronaut to test land a space shuttle orbiter. The limited edition embroidered emblem, which features Haise's (fascimile) autograph sewn into the design, is set to go on sale on Monday (Nov. 28).

All of the proceeds will benefit Taking Up Space, a non-profit that provides a 36-week curriculum and underwrites trips for middle-school-age Native American girls to attend Space Camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Alabama.

"As this is a Space Hipsters project, we decided that rather than focus on Haise's famous role in the Apollo 13 mission, we would instead celebrate his key role in the Shuttle Approach and Landing Tests, and include a nod to the strong Star Trek influence that led to the naming of the shuttle Enterprise," wrote Chris Spain, the artist for the patch.

Seven years after he made it safely home as the lunar module pilot on Apollo 13, Haise was in the commander's seat aboard OV-101, NASA's prototype winged orbiter, ready to do what no one had done before — land a space shuttle released into "free flight" off the back of a Boeing 747 carrier aircraft. The patch captures that moment, using a NASA photo taken of the shuttle's first free flight on Aug. 12, 1977, when Haise and pilot Gordon Fullerton were at the controls.

Although the patch celebrates Haise's role in the Approach and Landing Test (ALT) program, when he was consulted, Haise emphasized that the whole project was a group effort. To that end, the stars along the emblem's border represent the eight crewed ALT flights — three captive-active flights when the shuttle remained attached to the 747 and five free flights — with light grey stars symbolizing Crew 1 (Haise and Fullerton) and dark grey stars for Crew 2 (Joe Engle and Dick Truly).

The "swoosh" in front of the shuttle is inspired by the classic NASA "meatball" insignia, which, itself, was later adapted by "Star Trek" in the form of the Starfleet insignia that was made popular by the franchise's TV shows and movies.

"Here I've brought the Star Trek influence that led to OV-101 being christened 'Enterprise' full circle, with a design somewhere between the original NASA swoosh and the Starfleet shield," wrote Spain. "Incorporated into this is the NASA astronaut symbol, representing the ALT's key role in preparing the shuttle program to return NASA astronauts to space."

The patches, which were produced by NASA's official supplier, A-B Emblem, and donated for the cause by Spain, are available in three versions:

A limited edition of 50 "gold" patches feature Haise's facsimile signature, swoosh and border embroidered in metallic gold thread and come mounted to individually-numbered display cards, each hand-signed by Haise.

A limited edition of 100 "silver" patches render the signature, swoosh and border in silver metallic thread. They also come on numbered cards signed by Haise.

There is also an open edition patch that lacks metallic thread and comes without a display card. Haise's signature is sewn in white.

The patches are priced at $75 for each gold edition, $50 for silver and $15 for the open edition. There is a limit of one gold and two silver patches per person. Instructions on how to order will be posted to the Space Hipsters Facebook group around 1 p.m. EST (1800 GMT) on Monday.

The Haise patch is the second entry in the Space Hipsters' "Signature Edition" series. The group previously produced an emblem celebrating shuttle astronaut Robert "Hoot" Gibson, commander of the STS-27 mission. The gold patches were sold out within the first three hours and the silver followed about a week later. As with the new Haise patch, all of the proceeds went to support Taking Up Space.


Space Hipsters' "Signature Edition Enterprise Commander Fred W. Haise, Jr." patches benefit the non-profit Take Up Space and its efforts to inspire Native American girls by sending them to Space Camp at the Space & Rocket Center in Alabama. (Space Hipsters)

The "Signature Edition" patch pays tribute to astronaut Fred Haise's role as the commander of the first "free flight" of the space shuttle Enterprise by using part of a photo taken on Aug. 12, 1977. (NASA)

The first patch in the "Signature Edition" series honored astronaut Robert "Hoot" Gibson, the commander of STS-27. (Space Hipsters)

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