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A Shuttle Full of Flags: Use of Flags in the Space Shuttle Program


The Space Shuttle Program was the longest-running human spaceflight program of the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).  Spanning three decades (1981-2011), the program consisted of 135 flights using a fleet of orbiter spacecraft.  Throughout the history of the program, flags were used in many different contexts.  The most traditional was using a flag as a national identifier on spacecraft, payloads, and spacesuits.  In addition, flag motifs were used on the mission emblems designed by shuttle crews to represent their flights.  On the emblems, flags indicated the nationalities of individual crew members, the use of hardware contributed by various nations, and the increasingly international nature of the program as it evolved from an American space program to a collaborative program where many nations cooperated to conduct individual missions and to construct the International Space Station.  The Space Shuttle Program also spawned new flags to represent each orbiter, specific payloads, or selected missions.  Finally, the Space Shuttle was the largest spacecraft designed to ferry both astronauts and equipment into orbit.   This provided a unique opportunity to carry large numbers of flags into orbit.  This paper will discuss these varied uses of flags during the Space Shuttle Program, documenting specific flags and demonstrating the dynamic role of flags in human spaceflight.

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