John Young’s flown STS-1 mission patch removed from his blue in-flight garment by NASA’s Man-Systems Division following the first Space Shuttle mission, presented in its original frame as prepared by NASA. The patch, which measures approximately 4.25 x 4.75, is affixed to a presentation certificate with black text reading: “Man-Systems Division presents to: John W. Young, Commander, This original patch worn during your STS-1 mission.” Young has beautifully signed and inscribed the sheet in ballpoint, “To: Howard, My suit patch from STS-1, From my personal collection, John W. Young.” Displayed in the original mat and frame, the overall dimensions are 14.25 x 12.25; a small laminated photo of Young in his flight suit, this patch visible on his right breast, is tucked into the lower left corner. In fine condition.
When space suits were returned to NASA following a mission, they were customarily stripped of their patches for presentation to the astronauts as mementos of their heroic efforts. Although groups of patches were sometimes flown as souvenirs, suit-worn patches are extremely rare. For STS-1 through STS-4, the crewmembers wore pressurized orange ’ejection escape suits’ at launch, which had four patches on the exterior (an American flag, NASA logo, nameplate, and mission insignia); Young’s presentation of these four patches together sold for over $56,000 in 2009. They wore those suits only briefly before changing into the more comfortable light blue in-flight garments, from which this STS-1 patch derives.
Though not as widely known as contemporaries like Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, John Young is unquestionably one of America’s most accomplished (and bravest) astronauts: he flew the first manned Gemini mission in 1965, then commanded Gemini 10 the next year; he became the first man to complete a solo orbit of the moon on Apollo 10; he drove the lunar rover and walked on the moon as commander of Apollo 16; and he commanded two Space Shuttle missions, including the very first: STS-1. Despite this lifetime of achievements, Young viewed STS-1 as his most dangerous flight. Unlike the Gemini and Apollo spacecraft, the Space Shuttle had not undergone stringent testing—trials of the platform had been conducted with approach and landing tests of the Space Shuttle Enterprise, but the Space Shuttle Columbia had never been flown. Along with Pilot Bob Crippen, Commander Young launched the Columbia on its maiden voyage on April 12, 1981, beginning a two-day, 37-orbit circumnavigation of the globe—and ushering in the dawn of a new era of spaceflight. The Space Shuttle would come to define the next three decades of the American space program. Taken from the suit John Young wore for the majority of this historic first Shuttle mission, this is a remarkable piece of space history.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.