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Author Topic:   STS-51L / Challenger mission patch

Posts: 188
Registered: Dec 2008

posted 02-23-2009 11:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Voyager1975   Click Here to Email Voyager1975     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
We all know the differences between the embroidery techniques due to newer machines used today and of course the older machines used when these patches and the STS-51L patch in particular were first made. However besides those embroidery changes there are two very noticeable differences in the original AB Emblem STS-51L patch and the current AB Emblem version.

First in the current version, the shade of gray used in the border or outline around the edge of the patch seems a lot darker.

Secondly, there is no longer the thin gray line that ran underneath the gold fuel trail that comes out of the shuttles main engines.

Why these changes? Especially to this particular patch?


Posts: 604
From: Highlands Ranch, CO USA
Registered: May 2003

posted 10-11-2009 03:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for randyc   Click Here to Email randyc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I recently purchased an STS-51L patch that does not have the McAuliffe/Jarvis tab from an individual who lives in Hawaii who told me that he bought it at an estate sale of a real estate agent who lived in Hawaii who knew the Onizuka family and was given the patch by Ellison Onizuka. The patch appears to be of high quality and the comet is made with silver thread (not sure if the 'commercial' type patches used silver thread).

So here are my questions:

  1. Were STS-51L patches made for the crew before Christa McAuliffe and Greg Jarvis were assigned?

  2. If patches were made prior to the assignment of McAuliffe and Jarvis is there a way to tell whether this is one of them and not a souvenir type patch?

  3. Are the 51-L patches without the tab 'rare'?

  4. Is there a way to tell if the tab was removed by looking at the back of the patch?

  5. If this is indeed an 'original' crew patch, what is it's value?
Let me know if you would like to see a photo of the patch.

Editor's note: Threads merged

Mike Dixon

Posts: 775
From: Kew, Victoria, Australia
Registered: May 2003

posted 10-11-2009 05:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Mike Dixon   Click Here to Email Mike Dixon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes, there was a commercial version that used the silver thread.

Robert Pearlman

Posts: 27750
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 10-11-2009 06:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In 2006, Aurora Auctions offered a final design "sketch" of the STS-51L patch as signed and presented by the crew back to its artist, Ernie Reyes. Accompanying the lot were copies of seven other design variations reviewed by the crew.

According to a letter included with the sketches, the basic design was devised by Reyes, his wife and daughter on the evening of July 22, 1985.

The five prime crew members for STS-51L were named in January 1985.

McAuliffe was announced by then-Vice President George H. W. Bush as a member of the STS-51L crew on July 19, 1985, three days before Reyes began designing the patch at the request of commander Dick Scobee.

Greg Jarvis was not added to the crew until October 1985.

Without knowing when the first patches were produced but given the time line of when the crew members were assigned and the patch was designed, it doesn't seem consistent that a patch would have been made without (at least) McAuliffe included.

Therefore, I would lean toward Randy's patch having had its tab removed (or lost) rather than produced before a tab was added.

spaced out

Posts: 2614
From: Paris, France
Registered: Aug 2003

posted 10-12-2009 02:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaced out   Click Here to Email spaced out     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My guess is that following STS-51E all patches were produced as bodies with separate tabs so that any changes in payload specialists could be incorporated without having to re-make the entire run of patches.

The AB Emblem STS-51L patches are no exception, so AB examples from the time will usually have sewn-on tabs. A tabless patch from any of the 1984/5 missions is simply one that didn't have the tab attached for whatever reason and doesn't necessarily indicate a version made prior to the announcement of the extra crewmembers.

Bob M

Posts: 1378
From: Atlanta-area, GA USA
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 04-06-2013 12:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob M   Click Here to Email Bob M     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
While not actually a patch collector, I have managed to acquire a number through the years, with a few that I've always been curious about their status and desirability.

These two STS-51L patches are slightly different, with the bottom patch slightly smaller than the top one.

Any info about these would be appreciated. Thanks.

Editor's note: Threads merged.

Ken Havekotte

Posts: 1875
From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
Registered: Mar 2001

posted 04-06-2013 12:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Bob, the top left STS-51L patch depicted of the crew emblem design came from Cape Kennedy Medals (CKM), an associate of my firm for many years.


Posts: 65
From: Bothell, WA, USA
Registered: Jan 2013

posted 09-22-2013 03:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Liembo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I just noticed that, at some point, A-B Emblem removed a star from their STS-51L souvenir patch (their version with the gray line under the yellow "swoosh").

I was looking at a patch that I had recently purchased on eBay and noticed the star was missing, I figured it was just an embroidery flaw. Another one came up on eBay this week (251344420103) which led me to suspect a batch flaw.

Then I did an image search and found this is the version currently sold by A-B Emblem on their website (and others, like

Any idea why such a subtle change was made?

Hart Sastrowardoyo

Posts: 2215
From: Toms River, NJ,USA
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 09-22-2013 06:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
Without knowing when the first patches were produced but given the time line of when the crew members were assigned and the patch was designed, it doesn't seem consistent that a patch would have been made without (at least) McAuliffe included.

In an interesting "what if," the 28 March 85 "Space Shuttle Payload Launch Schedule and Astronaut Flight Assignments" issued by Morton Thiokol lists 51L as indeed carrying the Teacher In Space PS (no name) - but the base crew of what became 61C (Gibson-Bolden) as the 51L crew.

This was a six-person crew, although presumably a seventh would have been added. So it is conceivable, depending on when the patch was designed, for at least a basic crew patch to be made and then an apron (tab) made with the PSs.

Scobee-Smith et. al. were assigned as the 61C crew, with an RCA Payload Specialist and another PS to be named. That flight was also to have carried EASE/ACCESS.

All times are CT (US)

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