A few years back, I learned that every patch designed for a NASA mission has a unique story behind it. All the elements of the patch are designed with a specific purpose.
Flight insignia have had an interesting history, with the crew participating in the naming of early spacecraft and the design of the patches. This practice became controversial when Gus Grissom named the first manned Gemini mission, Gemini III, “The Molly Brown” in reference to the sinking of his previous capsule, Liberty Bell 7, after splashdown.
NASA found little humor in the sarcasm and issued a memo to astronauts temporarily preventing them from naming their spacecraft. As a result, Gemini IV’s proposed name “American Eagle” was not allowed, so the astronauts chose to wear the American flag on their flight suits instead, the first U.S. astronauts to do so. Gemini V became the first crew to design their mission patch together and have it flown on their flight suits in addition to the American flag. Both have since become a long-standing tradition.
From the mission profile on the NASA website, the story of STS-126’s patch is:
“The STS-126 patch represents space shuttle Endeavour on its mission to help complete the assembly of the International Space Station (ISS). The inner patch outline depicts the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) Leonardo. This reusable logistics module will carry the equipment necessary to sustain a crew of six onboard the station and will include additional crew quarters, exercise equipment, galley, and life support equipment.
In addition, a single expedition crew member will launch on STS-126 to remain on the space station, replacing an expedition crew member who will return home with the shuttle crew. Near the center of the patch, the constellation Orion reflects the goals of the human spaceflight program to return us to the moon and prepare us for journeys to Mars. The moon and the Red Planet are also shown.
At the top of the patch is the gold symbol of the astronaut office. The sunburst, just clearing the horizon of the magnificent Earth, powers all these efforts through the solar arrays of the space station orbiting high above.”
In a quick update, the official launch countdown has started on the shuttle website, and the weather officer has given a 60% chance for launch on Friday, 40% chance for Saturday and 70% chance for Sunday. Fingers crossed!