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NASA crews show their creativity in long history of mission patches

Since 1965, astronauts have designed patches with symbols related to their journey.


One of the first tasks for a new astronaut crew is designing a mission patch. Crew members discuss what shape, colors and emblems it should have to show why their mission is special.

Astronauts have been wearing official mission patches since 1965. There are more than 150 such patches, a treasure trove for collectors. Nearly all patches list the crew and display stars and stripes. Many show the space shuttle and the International Space Station.

After a deadly fire aboard Apollo 1 in 1967, all flammable materials — including embroidered patches — were banned from U.S. spacecraft. Since then, crew patches have been printed on special cloth.

Other countries have their own mission patches. Ours come from a North Carolina company that also makes Girl Scout and Boy Scout patches.

We picked some cool space patches to show you. There are lots more at the websites listed below.

1969: To the moon we go

Apollo 11 was the first mission to put people on the moon. On July 20, 1969, about 530 million television viewers worldwide saw Neil Armstrong take “one giant leap for mankind” on the lunar surface.

Apollo’s three-man crew did not want their names on this patch. Instead, they wanted to honor everyone who had ever worked toward a successful lunar landing. The patch’s bald eagle, our national emblem, was traced from a photo in a book about birds. It’s clutching an olive branch as a sign of peace from Earth.

1986: Thrills, then tears

Imagine the excitement Christa McAuliffe felt on the morning of January 28, 1986. The New Hampshire educator was about to become the first civilian in space as part of the new Teacher in Space program. McAuliffe was thrilled to be picked from 11,000 applicants for what she saw as the ultimate field trip. She even got an apple next to her name on the mission patch.

Classrooms around the country tuned in to watch the shuttle Challenger launch from Florida. But just 73 seconds after liftoff, Challenger exploded, killing all seven aboard. Faulty seals on the shuttle’s solid rocket boosters were later blamed.

1988: Kids name a shuttle

In 1988, U.S. students in kindergarten through 12th grade were asked to suggest a name for the newest shuttle, based on an exploratory or research sea vessel. Suggested names also needed to capture the spirit of future space discovery.

Endeavour, an 18th-century British Navy research vessel captained by James Cook, was the most popular name sent in by the 6,000 schools that entered the contest. Based on the students’ projects, two schools — in Mississippi and Georgia — were named national winners. The crew for Endeavour’s first mission, in 1992, decided its patch would have the two schools’ colors in the flags flying from Endeavour’s masts.

2011: Science in space

The shuttle Endeavour docked with the International Space Station (ISS) in May 2011, the next-to-last flight in the shuttle program. Endeavour’s crew delivered and installed high-tech scientific equipment designed to better explain our universe. The shape of the crew’s patch represents the international atomic symbol, showing an atom with particles called electrons circling the nucleus. Can you find the ISS and the shuttle?

2018: The newest patch

There have been 56 official “expeditions” to the space station since 2000. The current crew has three Americans, two Russians and a German. Their patch shows a dove holding an olive branch, along with images of the space station and the Soyuz rocket that brought them there. Length of stay at the station varies; the last crew was up there for more than five months.

To see more patches, visit and

See how astronauts design their mission patches at Always get an adult’s permission before going online.

At KidsPost, our mission is to inform and entertain you with stories about the news, books, sports, history and more. So we would like YOU to design a KidsPost patch we can publish in the future.

Upload your original design — that means not copied — to or have a parent or guardian send it, along with your name, age, address and the adult’s email to KidsPost, The Washington Post, 1301 K St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. The adult also must grant permission for you to enter the contest.

The contest is open to ages 6 to 14. Entries (only one per person) are due by September 21. A winning design will be chosen based on creativity and execution. The winner will be notified by September 28 and will receive space-related books, a Kennedy Space Center bag, a stuffed animal astronaut and a KidsPost T-shirt.

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