Pocket Telescope, Lens Celebrate Hubble Mission
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STS-125 mission logo The STS-125 logo illustrates its mission to upgrade the groundbreaking Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: NASA
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From a model of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to a patch from the New York City Sanitation Department, the STS-125 mission astronauts are marking the flight by taking a wide variety of mementos with them into orbit.

The crew of seven will spend 11 days in space upgrading Hubble during what is expected to be the last shuttle mission to the venerable observatory.

That mission is reflected in several items that make up the astronauts’ official flight kit. There’s a pocket telescope and a 1.5-inch diameter telescope lens. By comparison, the Hubble mirror is almost eight feet across.

The astronauts also are taking a basketball that astronomer Edwin Hubble, the namesake of the space telescope, played with while on the University of Chicago basketball team. The ball has been deflated so it will not take up as much room inside the shuttle.

While outer space is boundless, the space inside the shuttle is extremely limited. That’s why NASA allows astronauts a small amount of room on each mission for collectibles or things they want to carry to mark their achievements. Some of the items reflect organizations astronauts were a part of, while others are taken up to give to friends when they get back.

Several schools are represented in the flight kit, including Clear Springs High School in League City, Texas, Schmitz Park Elementary in Seattle, and Lake Orion High School in Lake Orion, Mich.

Three conductors batons will be stowed inside Atlantis, including one from the Houston Symphony orchestra.

Atlantis also will take a ticket stub from the 2006 U.S. Open tennis tournament and a swimming cap from the U.S. Olympic swim team.

While some of the items look at the recent past as far as Hubble’s extraordinary accomplishments, a couple items look forward to NASA’s new spacecraft. There is a patch and decal from the Orion crew exploration vehicle project, which is developing the capsule intended to carry astronauts into space after the shuttles retire.

The agency itself also includes scores of souvenirs that are sometimes passed out to workers and managers, or given to world leaders. There are 625 mission patches, plus 600 American flags. Another 700 sheets of Space Shuttle Program bookmarks also will fly with Atlantis.

As you might imagine, there are more Hubble commemorative items on STS-125 than anything else. Those are 5,643 patches reflecting different aspects of the telescope program.

Steven Siceloff
Kennedy Space Center