"The Space Shuttle Program belongs to the public, and we are
excited when we can provide an opportunity for people to
share the adventure of our missions."
Throughout the history of human exploration, voyagers have always taken along souvenirs of home to accompany them into the new frontier. Space shuttle astronauts were no different. Everything ranging from scouting badges to stamps to mission patches have made the shuttle journey out to space and home again. These pictures and trinkets have served not only as comfort tools for astronauts, but also are objects that also help inspire the public to become more involved in space exploration.
One of the earliest initiatives to involve the public was the Student Signatures in Space program. Participating classes of elementary school students would receive a poster for all the students to sign on Space Day, the first Friday in May. The signatures would then be returned to Lockheed Martin for digital scanning, and the scanned signatures would take flight on a genuine space shuttle mission. After the mission, students would have their signed posters returned to them, along with a picture of the mission's flight crew and a certificate proving that the signatures had flown in the shuttle. For most missions, NASA would give a presentation to the students about the mission’s goals and discoveries. The program was open to both elementary and high schools, and a school could take part in it once every six years. The Student Signatures in Space program gave students a great opportunity, not only to learn more about NASA and space, but also to participate in NASA’s shuttle missions themselves.
For the last two shuttle missions, NASA went even further than signed posters and sent people's entire faces into space with the astronauts. The NASA Face In Space project set up a website that would allow anyone over the age of thirteen to upload a digital photo to be flown in the shuttles. Over one hundred and ninety thousand people from all over the world sent pictures of themselves to be taken along for the ride on the two final space shuttle missions. Participants could then print flight certificates that had been signed by the mission commander. For those who were camera-shy, NASA also offered the option of simply uploading a name.
"It's a great way to let people share in the excitement of the missions coming, be a part of history, and be a part of the space program," said James Hartsfield, NASA spokesman for the Johnson Space Center in Houston, quoted here from a posting on www.space.com.
At Dynetics Technical Services, a research firm based in Madison, Wisconsin, nineteen employees had their photos taken on “Pink-Out Day,” a company holiday when employees wear pink to raise awareness of cancer. The company’s employees decided to send photos of themselves wearing pink in order to support both the space program and cancer awareness. “It is the most awesome feeling for me,” said Burt Bright. “I truly believe in America’s space program and to know that our image was a tiny part of one of the space shuttle missions is simply exhilarating.” Program participants were excited to have their portraits in space, and looked forward to becoming a part of NASA’s history.
While most people may not be able to physically lift off from Earth themselves during their lifetimes, NASA's participatory exploration programs gave everyone all over the world a chance to be a part of the space shuttle missions.
Read and See More: