Friday, July 5, 2013

Amazing Objects That Have Sailed To Space


Each crew member of Space Shuttle mission is allowed to take one kilogram of memento items along with them, provided they fit into a tiny compartment set aside for such use.

This is how things like Buzz Lightyear action figures and lunar rocks which an astronaut had carried to the summit of Mount Everest make it on board, despite strict weight restrictions. On each flight, many flags, patches, and medallions are also flown, along with nationally-sponsored specialty items, such as the New York Mets' Home Plate, or the piece of Isaac Newton's apple tree!

Shuttle Atlantis STS-132 carried a portrait of Sir Isaac, and a small piece of his famous tree, which inspired his theory of gravity.  The Royal Society Archives in London presented the materials to ESA astronaut Piers Sellers, who cared for them during the 12-day mission, and later returned them for permanent public exhibit.

I just love the idea that the little piece of apple tree got to experience .... a lack of gravity!

Star Wars Light Saber
Shuttle Discovery STS-120 flew the light-saber used by Luke Skywalker (actor Mark Hamill) in "Return of the Jedi." In honor of the 30th anniversary of the Star Wars film franchise, Chewbacca (actor Peter Mayhew) presented the famed movie prop to NASA, whereupon it was flown to Texas and displayed for a time at Space Center Houston.

The prop weapon continued it's journey to Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where it was packed into a Shuttle locker and spent two weeks in orbit. George Lucas attended Discovery's launch, and the light saber was later returned to Lucasfilm Ltd. for display in a traveling exhibit.

Jamestown Colony
Shuttle Atlantis STS-117 carried a lead cargo tag from "Yames Town", a 400-year-old artifact excavated by archaeologists in 2006. This particular item had made a trip across the Atlantic Ocean around 1611, along with European passengers destined for Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the Americas.

In honor of the 400th anniversary of the founding of this first colony of the New World, the metal plate was packed aboard Atlantis in 2007, and took 219 orbits around the Earth – this time crossing many oceans in a fraction of the time! The tag is now in the Archaearium, the historic Jamestown museum in Virginia.

Shuttle Atlantis STS-101 flew the Olympic Torch!  Well, a ceremonial replica, anyway. It wasn't lit, but NASA astronaut James Voss paid tribute to the Year 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia with the torch and a logo banner.

I'm just wondering how and where they packed that thing.  Later this year, Roskosmos plans to send up another torch on a Soyuz mission carrying Expedition 38 crewmen, with the intention of carrying it outside the space station on EVA as part of the official torch relay!  However, they are currently arguing about whether or not they will allow a flame.

Amelia Earhart and Eileen Collins
Less famous and quirky, but among my personal favorites, is how a rookie astronaut named Eileen Collins took Amelia Earhart's scarf on her first spaceflight aboard Shuttle Discovery STS-63. Colonel Collins would, of course, go on to become the very first female Shuttle pilot and the first female Shuttle Commander, on STS-84 Atlantis and STS-93 Columbia, respectively. She would also be Commander of STS-114 Discovery prior to her retirement.

Want to OWN something FLOWN? Many organizations, such as SpaceFlori, Farthest Reaches and The Space Store, sell metal craft fragments, pieces of shields and tiles, washers, nozzles, on board checklists, suit and seat materials from all eras of NASA missions.

If you were an astronaut or a cosmonaut, and could take something personal, professional or national into space, what would it be?