This Saturday the Stafford Air and Space Museum will be featuring, for the first time, the flown flags in its collection. Check out this blog insert from our Director!
There is nothing more symbolic of the technological greatness of the United States than a photo of an American astronaut with a U.S. flag on their shoulder. Yet, as strange as it sounds, it would not be until the eighth U.S. space mission – the flight of Gemini 4 in June, 1965 – before an astronaut would wear the stars and stripes on their shoulder. Every astronaut since has proudly worn a U.S. flag.
The crew of Gemini 4 also began a tradition of personally carrying aboard their spacecraft a small number of copies of the flags sewn on their space suits as souvenirs of the mission. After the flight, the astronauts would often present these small, flown flags to family, friends, politicians, and space program officials in gratitude for their support.
Since Gemini 4, every astronaut crew has made it a priority to carry small packets of not only U.S. flags, but also those of the 50 states and various countries, for post flight presentations that included the President and other heads of state. So rare were these flags, though, only the most important and deserving were fortunate to receive them.
The Stafford Air & Space Museum has in its collection fourteen of these rare flown flags that were carried aboard various American and Russian space missions. About half of these flags were carried by General Stafford aboard his four space missions, and the remaining flags were presented to him by various astronaut and cosmonaut crews out of respect for the extraordinary role he has played in the development of manned space flight.