PATCH US IN: PEDRO DUQUE, STS-95

In this week’s instalment of Patch Us In, ESA patch expert Carl Walker talked to the first Spaniard in space, ESA astronaut Pedro Duque, about his flight aboard 1998’s STS-95 Space Shuttle Discovery mission.

 

 

The STS-95 Space Shuttle Discovery mission in 1998 saw the former Mercury astronaut and US Senator John Glenn return to space for his second spaceflight. STS-95 launched 36 years after his historic first flight and three months after his 77th birthday. Glenn still holds the record as the oldest person to go into space. The mission also had another first: ESA astronaut Pedro Duque became the first Spaniard in space.

 

Duque and Glenn flew on STS-95 with NASA astronauts Curt Brown, Steve Lindsey, Scott Parazynski, Steve Robinson, as well as Chiaki Mukai of Japan. According to the official description of the mission patch, it was designed by the crew. But in reality, astronaut Steve Robinson took the role of main designer. He coordinated ideas from the other crew members and then produced the artwork.

 

Because of Glenn’s presence on the crew, Robinson included several historical references. Published the year after the STS-95 flight, Glenn recalled in his autobiography, John Glenn: A Memoir: “Steve Robinson was the artist of the group. One of the traditions that has grown up around the Shuttle flights is the creation of a special crew patch for each flight. Steve’s design for STS-95 combined a silhouette of the Shuttle with a tiny orbiting capsule signifying Friendship 7.”

 

This of course was the name of Glenn’s capsule for his Mercury flight – the first American orbital spaceflight that took place on February 20, 1962. The bold number ‘7’ also represented the original seven Mercury astronauts, as well as the seven members of Discovery’s crew.

 

Pedro Duque

“Certainly, a mention in the patch of the Mercury astronauts is at the heart of it,” Pedro Duque (pictured) confirmed when I asked. “John of course approved from the very beginning the resemblance to the Mercury 7 symbol, but I don’t recall him making any other input to the patch.”

 

With the historical significance covered, the remaining elements of the patch reflected the scientific and engineering elements of the mission. The Shuttle is shown rising over a sunlit Earth limb. This represented the global benefits of space science and the solar science objectives of the Spartan satellite, which was launched by the crew. The tricolour rocket plumes symbolise the three main fields of science studied on the mission: microgravity material science, medical research, and astronomy. The seven names of the crew form the border.

 

As Duque recalled, George Abbey – Director of Flight Crew Operations for Shuttle flights – was known to be strict about mission patches. Designs often progressed through multiple iterations before finally receiving approval. “I remember making small inputs,” said Duque. “One of them being the placement of names around the patch. This was always a little heated because it has to do with hierarchy.”

 

The crew of mission STS-95 spent just under 10 days in space. Pedro Duque would later become the sixth ESA astronaut to fly to the International Space Station on his following spaceflight in 2003, the Soyuz TMA-3 Cervantes mission.

 

 

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