Two months ago, NASA put out the call to its past and present employees: design a patch to symbolize the end of the space shuttle program coming to a close in 2010, and the chosen artwork will fly to orbit on one of the final flights.
Its in-house patch contest now over — the deadline for designs expiring Tuesday — the space agency is sorting through the nearly 100 entries it received, including some offered by those who rode on the shuttles to space.
"Entries came from astronauts," revealed Debbie Byerly, who led the patch contest as technical assistant to shuttle program manager John Shannon, adding they also came from other former and current NASA employees and from the agency's contractor workforce.
Among the latter category of entrants was Jen Scheer, a senior aerospace technician who works for United Space Alliance at the Kennedy Space Center, where the shuttles launch and often land in Florida.
Scheer, who founded and runs the Space Tweep Society, an online group for space enthusiasts on Twitter, shared her design through the social networking site.
"In case you're interested, this was my entry," she wrote, adding a link to her computer graphic of a circular emblem with five shuttle orbiters in a star-like formation.
Scheer described her insignia and what it symbolized in an e-mailed reply to collectSPACE.com. "The five orbiters represent Columbia, Challenger, Atlantis, Discovery, and Endeavour. The fourteen stars are to represent each of those who lost their lives on shuttle missions, with one of the stars having six points like a Star of David, in honor of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon."
"Also shown is the Earth, because the shuttle always remained in low Earth orbit," she continued. "Finally, two of the shuttle program's greatest accomplishments are represented -- the International Space Station and the Hubble Space Telescope."
In response to compliments she received through Twitter, Scheer wrote that she expected some "great designs" that her entry would "have to compete against."
"I'm sure there are lots of good ones," she wrote. "[I] can't wait to see what others came up with."
One of Scheer's competitors is a shuttle flight controller at Mission Control in Houston. The Johnson Space Center employee shared her design with collectSPACE.com but asked not to be identified.
"The shuttle program has been flying for so long and done so many things that it's difficult to encapsulate the entire program on a single patch," the flight controller wrote.
"I used the silhouette of the orbiter because it is such an iconic shape, recognizable to people all over the world. The crescent Earth depicts a similarly iconic view from orbit, while the sun can be interpreted both as setting at the end of the successful shuttle program and rising on the new programs in NASA's future."
"The five stars centered on the orbiter represent the five orbiters that have flown in space over the history of the program," her description continued. "These are located over the payload bay to also represent the hundreds of payloads and missions that the shuttle has supported, from experiments to satellites to space station dockings."
"Finally, the stars in the [patch's] background represent the thousands of people who have supported the space shuttle program over the past 29 years," she concluded.
Some of those thousands will soon have their chance to identify which of the proposed patches is their favorite.
"The [designs] will now be reviewed and judged by a team of space shuttle program managers from various centers, who will provide recommendations for the patch," Byerly wrote to collectSPACE.com.
All of the entries will then be posted to a NASA internal site in January where "employees will be able to choose their favorite from among the finalists for a People's Choice Award. The number of votes received will be one of the factors in the judges' final decision," said Byerly.
The winning design will be flown on an upcoming shuttle mission, and the winner will be presented with their flown artwork as an award. NASA will also produce the patch to be shared with the public.
"I'm hoping I'll win and NASA will make them available!" exclaimed Scheer in a Twitter reply to a fan asking for her patch. "If I don't [win], we'll see what we can do."
collectSPACE.com is working to soon host a public gallery of all the patch designs entered in NASA's contest.
Copyright 2009 collectSPACE.com. All rights reserved.
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