Our new series continues with Carl Walker looking at the Mission Beyond patch as worn by Italy’s Luca Parmitano – ESA’s most recent ISS crew member.


The ‘Beyond’ mission would see Luca Parmitano of Italy return to the Space Station for a second time and become its third European commander. As a purely ESA mission, Luca was able to have more input into the design. Unofficially, the name of the mission was a play on the name of German astronaut Alexander Gerst’s second space mission, ‘Horizons’. Luca would look ‘beyond’ the horizon — an indication of the good-natured competition often seen between these two astronaut friends.


The mission logo illustrates Luca’s plan: an astronaut looks out into space through a spacesuit helmet, with Earth and the International Space Station are reflected in the Sun visor. In the distance, the Moon is poised for humankind’s return, with the Orion spacecraft and exploratory rovers. Beyond is Mars, the Red Planet, currently being studied by spacecraft such as ExoMars and Mars Express and, one day, by humans.


Luca’s patch was designed by Karen Oldenburg, a graphic designer based at ESA’s ESTEC in the Netherlands. “After the name was chosen, about a year before the flight, Luca sent some ideas to me,” says Karen about her design process for Beyond. “We discussed these ideas by phone and over Skype, where Luca mentioned the elements he wanted and the symbolism of these. These included either a space helmet or a glove, the solar panels of the Station and our future destinations the Moon and Mars.”


For the first draft, Karen produced 17 designs for Luca to choose from. The next round had whittled that number down to nine, and then the third round narrowed it to one design. From the first call, in January 2018, to approval of final design was nine months.


As well as ISS Commander, Luca had two main objectives for Mission Beyond. The first was to test a new control system for a robotic rover through the Moon-like landscapes of Lanzarote, Spain. The Analog-1 experiment imagines future scenarios in which astronauts orbiting distant planets and moons can instruct robots to do difficult tasks and set up base before landing.


Luca’s second task was to lead a series of four of the most complex spacewalks ever carried out, to service the cosmic-particle-hunting Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02). This is the first time a European astronaut took a leading role in ISS spacewalks. Installed in 2011, AMS was only ever intended to run for three years and was never designed to be maintained in orbit. It has been so successful that its mission has been extended. Scientists, astronauts and operations teams had to develop new procedures and more than 20 custom tools to extend the instrument’s life.


See more from Carl Walker at @spacemanfellow





Picture credits

All pics courtesy of ESA.