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Author Topic:   Shuttle closeout crew and suit tech philately
Ken Havekotte

Posts: 3028
From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
Registered: Mar 2001

posted 06-13-2020 12:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Not too well known by space cover collectors was a special cover made 25 years ago this month in commemoration of the 100th American crewed spaceflight in June 1995. Pictured below is a display presentation that depicts the unique cachet cover issues that were produced for the shuttle astronaut closeout crew as they celebrated their own closeout crew history from 1961 to 1995.

By early 1995, the team wanted to commemorate the upcoming 100th human spaceflight from the Florida launch sites since Alan Shepard's first astronaut space feat 34 years earlier. A rubber stamp text appears at the bottom of the two-color printed cachet with the text, "The Astronaut Closeout Crew salutes the 100th American manned spaceflight (1961-95)."

The special one of-a-kind cachet features the shuttle orbiter hatch rendering and outline, designed by the closeout crew in 1995 with the help of SpaceCoast Cover Service (SCCS) of Merritt Island, Florida. "LSOC" refers to the Lockheed Space Operations Company that managed NASA's space shuttle operations on a daily basis, which included the shuttle orbiter closeout crew contract. A year later, though, in 1996, Lockheed was no longer the shuttle fleet contractor, as United Space Alliance (USA) had taken over the contract that included the closeout crew operations at Kennedy Space Center.

One hundred of the special covers were printed by Brevard Printing in Cocoa, Florida, for SCCS, approved by the team. Of special note is the cover pictured at the very top; It's actually a "carried/located" cover that had been placed in the white room of Launch Pad 39A during the final countdown and launch of STS-71/Atlantis, the first U.S.-Russia Mir docking mission, which had become the 100th crewed U.S. space launch on June 27, 1995.

It was only no. 5 of 6 covers placed in a secured area of the 65-foot-long orbiter access arm, inside the white room itself, attached to the end of the arm. The white room, located 147 feet above the pad surface of the Fixed Service Structure (FSS), is an environmental controlled chamber allowing personnel and flight crews to enter the orbiter crew compartment.

During a shuttle liftoff, the access arm with white room attached, is swung back from the shuttle orbiter to a secured position alongside the FSS less than a hundred feet away from the shuttle as it takes off. Later that day, the half-dozen covers were retrieved from the pad by the cover carriers and signed by them, a veteran closeout crewman and pad supervisor.

Each cover had been postmarked with a special pictorial cancel at KSC honoring our nation's 100th crewed spaceflight voyage. The postal cancel for STS-71, approved for use by the USPS and submitted by SCCS, was designed by veteran space postal graphic artist Joel Katzowitz of Marietta, Georgia. It was a clever design that incorporated a depiction of each NASA manned spacecraft vehicle; Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and a shuttle orbiter.

Two more closeout crew covers can be seen at both ends. One, at right, has been signed by many STS-71 closeout crewmen, while another at left, has been affixed by space-themed postage stamps (Skylab included) from Mercury to shuttle — all with the special 100th spaceflight launch postmark.

The cloth patches at bottom of the montage were those that were worn by closeout crewmen during the second and third decades of the shuttle program. The far left patch, while the same basic configuration of the original NASA/LSOC Astronaut Closeout Crew design, was recently redone, or should I say the crew hatch portion of it, was reconstructed by well-known space station crew patch designer "Artonaut" Tim Gagnon of Titusville, Florida.

All the above patches were commissioned by their organizations and aerospace companies for SCCS production in limited quantities, mostly for their team members and employees. But all four different patch designs had been worn by various closeout crew members on their numbered protective white room-type garments during shuttle missions that were provided by my firm.

The photo below, while not directly related to the shuttle closeout crews here at Kennedy, is closely related to the topic at hand. Mission STS-78 with Space Shuttle Columbia in June 1996 had the first and only all female suit tech crew for a human spaceflight. The admired women, from top left, are Christine Stewart, Monica Golden, Terri McKinney, crew chief Sharon McDougle, and Kari Reuter of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. While on a visit to my home in 1998, a couple of the suit techs presented me with this rare signed team photograph, a favorite of mine.

The Flight Crew Systems patch, designed by Apollo suit technician and graphic artist Ron Woods in 1990, was another division of the astronaut flight crew section with offices at the NASA space centers in Florida and Texas. Once again SCCS had been commissioned to provide the patriotic red-white-blue patches, depicting a shuttle orbiter and the Florida state outline, for team members.

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