What souvenirs does NASA send to space and why?

What souvenirs does NASA send to space and why?
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We are all used to the fact that the space mission is something very serious, and there is no place for sentimentality there. Nevertheless, even in space there is a place for souvenirs. It is them that NASA sends into orbit with almost every mission. Today we’ll talk about the most interesting and unusual of them. And also, we show where you can see the full list of what the agency sent into orbit. We must say right away that sometimes this was done for the sake of a joke, sometimes for raising “morale”, and sometimes for research purposes.

Among the souvenirs sent by NASA into space were not only flags and medals

It’s hard to say where the legs of such a tradition come from, but souvenirs really go with almost every launch. This was especially popular when the American space shuttles that did not fly now were sent to space, the last of which was Atlantis, launched in 2011.

On each side, there were almost always several hundred US flags, several dozen state flags, as well as patches, badges and figures of famous characters. For example, a silver badge depicting Snoopy on it in a spacesuit.

There were also more unusual things in orbit. A complete list of them can be found on a special site. In this article we will give several examples of what astronauts carried into space, though not only on shuttles.


1 Coins in space
2 First man in interstellar space
3 Snoopy in space
4 Toys in space
5 Jedi Sword
6 The most unusual cheese
7 What is the name of the mole from the Czech cartoon?
8 Museum in space
9 What can astronauts take into space?
10 Why do we need souvenirs in space?

Coins visited space

Probably, if the coins that were in space wanted to sell, they would really be the most expensive. But nobody wanted to do this. And how would he prove that these very coins were so far from Earth?

Why would astronauts need coins if everything in space is free? Even if you want to drink coffee, it’s easier to contact the command post and request delivery than to find a coffee machine.

Do you think whether vending machines are needed in space. Absurd? Let's discuss this in our Telegram chat.

The astronaut who went into orbit with a pocket full of little things was Gus Griss in July 1961. He was the second American to travel in space, but his suborbital flight lasted only 15 minutes, ending in a fall into the Atlantic Ocean.

While he was waiting for the helicopter to pick it up, the hatch of the capsule opened and water began to flow into it. He was able to leave the “sinking ship”, but there were a few old coins that he wanted to give out after the flight. Nevertheless, in his pocket he had two bags of coins, several dollar bills and a couple of Liberty Bell 7 models. Although they prevented me from being afloat, the helicopter’s quick arrival helped save them.

Coin lying on the bottom of the ocean for about 40 years inside the descent capsule

After almost 40 years, in 1999, the capsule was taken from a depth of 5000 meters and found in it the very coins of the thirties and forties. There were 52 of them. For so much time in salt water, they lost their appearance, but became an even more valuable find with a rich history.

First man in interstellar space

At this stage of technology development, man could not fly into space beyond the moon. Yes, there are programs to send a person to Mars, but so far these are all projects. Despite this, there is one person who has every chance of being the first to go beyond the solar system. True, this will not be a whole man, but his ashes.

By the way: A new explanation is found for the liquid ocean below the surface of Pluto

Clyde William Tombaugh, the astronomer who discovered Pluto, became such a “lucky one". It was his ashes in 2006, that is, on the centenary of his birth, sent to space.

Talented self-taught astronomer Clyde Tombo

The capsule was placed inside the automatic station "New Horizons", sent to study Pluto, followed by going beyond the solar system. The launch was carried out using the Atlas-5 launch vehicle on January 19, 2006. At the same time, at first the device had the highest speed for all such ships (16.26 km / s relative to the Earth and 45 km / s heliocentric). This speed allowed him even without the gravitational maneuver near Jupiter, which made Voyager-1, to leave the solar system. However, according to data from 2015, its speed dropped to 14 km / s. For comparison, Voyager-1, it is 17 km / s.

Heliocentric velocity – the velocity of the body relative to the Sun, equal to the vector sum of the geocentric velocity of the body and the orbital velocity of the Earth.

In addition to the ashes of an astronomer, there is a CD with 434,738 names of people who participated in NASA's “Send Your Name to Pluto” action, two coins, two US flags, a fragment of the first SpaceShipOne inhabited private spacecraft, a CD with photos of the device and its developers, as well as the 1990 US postage stamp “Pluto: Not Yet Explored”.

Automatic Ship New Horizons

Snoopy in space

One of the cartoon characters who ended up in space was Snoopy. There are many versions that explain why this particular character went into space more than once, but could not find the exact justification. We will not give many indirect ones, but it was Snoopy who flew into orbit several times in the form of a silver badge. Many fans of unusual souvenirs hunt him around the world, but to get it is not so easy.

The famous Snoopy is a frequent guest of space missions.

Let me remind you that Snoopy is a fictional beagle dog (by the way, this is one of the versions suggesting that Snoopy's dog is a tribute to the first dogs in space). He first appeared in the Peanuts comic book series on October 4, 1950, and was created by artist Charles M. Schulz. In Russia, comics from Snoopy were published in the children's weekly magazine "Cool magazine".

Toys in space

Despite the fact that Snoopy is a frequent guest in space, there is a place for other characters. Astronauts often take toys with them into space. For some, this is an opportunity to take something from home with them for a long separation from their children, but more often this is done to conduct experiments.

So, for example, during the take-off of a ship, a toy hanging on the panel at first simply hangs on a rope. But, as soon as gravity is greatly weakened, it begins to fly. This is a sign for the crew that they have reached a certain height. Sensors are good, but visualizing the laws of physics will certainly not fail.

Buzz Lightyear – the toy that spent the most time in space

The record holder in orbit is Buzz Lightyear. If you remember, this is the same astronaut from the cartoon Toy Story by Pixar. Its 30-centimeter copy spent 458 days in orbit and returned to Earth on September 11, 2009.

Sword of the Jedi

I admit honestly, I have never been an ardent fan of Star Wars, but I respect them and understand the desire of NASA to put into orbit a useless, from the point of view of practical sense, but a very symbolic item. It's about a Jedi sword.

This package was sent to the ISS along with the Discovery shuttle in October 2007. She was sent at the personal request of George Lucas. The Jedi's lightsaber was packed in a foam container, in which he spent the entire flight. This was timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the release of the movie Star Wars: A New Hope.

Star Wars lightsaber simply had to go into space

There were many more interesting things in that flight. For example, mission specialist Doug Wheeler, who had been friends with Bobby Mercer since childhood, and who was later diagnosed with a brain tumor, took Mercer’s baseball cards to give them to Mercer as a present.

The most unusual cheese

When in 2010, Elon Musk sent his first ship into space, there was a very unusual item on board. At the same time, he was under the cover, with the inscription “top secret” and the image of a cow in galoshes.

Someone took this very seriously and thought that something special was really hidden there, but those who were in the subject understood that this was a reference to the 1994 comedy “Top Secret”. Before launching, Musk said that everyone would be pleasantly surprised when they found out what was there.

A piece of space cheese from Ilon Mask

When the ship landed after two turns around the Earth, everyone found out what was under the cover. It turned out that Ilon personally went shopping in Beverly Hills and was looking for where to buy the largest piece of Gruyere cheese. I can imagine how the sellers were interested in why he needed cheese to offer the option most suitable for a particular drink, and he replied that it was necessary for a flight into space. No jokes, but the story is funny. But was it really?

What is the name of the mole from the Czech cartoon?

Surely many people know the famous mole from Czech cartoons. In the Czech Republic itself, it is still popular not only as a souvenir, but also as an educational character. By the way, his name is Krtek – a very Czech name.

The famous Krtek from Czech cartoons

“My wife’s mother is Czech, and therefore we have strong ties with the Czech Republic,” said mission specialist Drew Fostel, who traveled to the ISS as part of the 134th NASA expedition to the shuttle Endeavor. “They’re actually building a whole scientific and educational program around this character, and we hope that we can return to visit the country on a tour with Krtek and try to attract schools to participate in mathematics, science and technology.”

Mole looks like a very cute simpleton, but now he is not as simple as it seems. Not all cartoon characters managed to go into orbit and return back.

Museum in space

It's hard to believe, but even objects of historical value have visited space. For example, a wooden ball from a 16th-century ship, Mary Rose. The symbolism of history was to allow the exhibit to swim in the vast ocean of outer space.

The Mary Rose was one of the first specially built warships and was raised from the bottom in 1982. He spent more than 400 years under water. The ball, called the “barrel,” was part of the mechanism used to raise the sails on the masts.

Part of this beautiful ship was sent into space for a new "voyage"

This ship has a deeper connection with NASA than it seems at first glance. The fact is that astronaut Michael Fole, who made six space flights, worked as a voluntary diver in excavating the ship in 1981. That is, he actually turned out to be one of those who ensured his rise from the depths of the sea.

Another museum exhibit that traveled into space was the five-star insignia worn by General Henry “Hap” Arnold, the only five-star US Army general and founder of the US Air Force as a separate branch of the army. The emblem is owned by the United States Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.

What can astronauts take into space?

Despite the fact that every gram of cargo delivered into orbit is literally worth its weight in gold, everyone still understands that the astronauts are also people and they need personal things in order to feel good and calm. In the end, the success of the mission also depends on this. That is why they are allowed to have something with them from Earth. Moreover, they can order a package with the next ship, which will fly to the ISS. As a rule, this cargo is limited to one kilogram per expedition member. But there are exceptions.

The only thing you can’t do is order something commercial. Such a package may be refused. But, if the astronaut wants to bring something, which he will then distribute as souvenirs to friends or leave for himself a memory of the flight, no one will mind.

There are goods that are sent without the knowledge of the expedition members, or, at a minimum, do not include their weight in the “baggage allowance” norm. This may be for cultural or educational reasons. Some kind of symbol of the event, like a torch during the Olympic Games in Sochi and the like.

Why do we need souvenirs in space?

It is the souvenirs in space that we are talking about now that rarely carry any practical meaning. As a rule, this is something more personal than really needed. There is nothing wrong with this, because technicians will be pleased to receive a coin that they traveled to space on the ship they prepared. There are many examples, but all of them allow humanity to integrate even more into something unknown and yet mystical. In the end, spaceflight has not yet become a routine. Each launch is an event anyway and souvenirs are another way to make it more special.



My name is Rick V. Jennings. He became a daddy in 2011, raising a curly, kipish daughter. Resigned from the factory after the birth of a daughter, to be closer to the family. Read more for page "about this blog".

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