June 10, 2023
Astronaut Candidates Fly Class Patch Is A Lunar Slam Dunk

Astronaut Candidates Fly Class Patch Is A Lunar Slam Dunk

October 31, 2022

— NASA astronaut candidates are redefining “fly me to the moon” with their recent category patch.

The 12 spaceflight trainees — 10 from the US and two from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — reported for two years of basic training in January. Four months later, they were given their official nickname, “The Flies,” continuing a tradition that began with NASA’s first astronaut class in 1959.

On Friday (Oct. 28), Team 23 astronaut candidates (“ascans”) shared another custom, presenting an insignia of their own.

“The fly patch represents our class, ‘The Flies,'” Anil Menon, one of the Askans, wrote on Instagram. “Twelve stars represent the Class 23 candidates and both the UAE and US flags are displayed.”

Menon’s classmates include NASA recruits Nichole Ayers, Marcos Berríos, Christina Birch, Deniz Burnham, Luke Delaney, Andre Douglas, Jack Hathaway, Christopher Williams and Jessica Wittner. Nora Al Matrooshi and Mohammad Al Mulla, who were selected from the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center in Dubai, joined the class under an agreement between NASA and the UAE.

When announced in December 2021, the 12 ascans were described by NASA as new members of the Artemis generation. As part of the Artemis program, NASA is working to return astronauts to the surface of the Moon in order to gain the skills needed to send the first humans to Mars.

On Team 23’s patch, the NASA astronaut symbol extends upward from Earth, as does an astronaut in a space suit reaching out to hold the moon, referencing a certain basketball move.

“And of course the astronaut pose represents our faith in NASA’s return to the moon as a slam dunk, while keeping an eye on Mars (the right eye of the fly)!” Menon wrote, captioning a picture of the patch.

“So excited to get this done!” Birch replied.

Former NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman, a member of the 1998 “Penguins,” also hit on Twitter. “Nice patch, Flies!”

The tradition of category patches dates back to 1978 and NASA’s eighth astronaut group. The “Thirty-Five New Guys” (TFNG), as they were called, were also the first class to include women and minorities as the US space program prepared to transition from the Apollo era to the space shuttle program.

Guy Bluford, who would become the first African-American to fly in space, is credited with the idea. The TFNG patch was designed by space artist Robert McCall, who was at the same time creating the STS-1 mission patch for the first shuttle crew. Both emblems depicted the winged spaceship taking off into space.

Since then, some NASA classes have had two fixes: one with a more formal approach and one that emphasized their less flattering nicknames. “The Maggots” (Group 10, 1984), “The Hairballs” (Group 13, 1990), “The Hogs” (Group 14, 1992) and “The Sardines” (Group 16, 1996) all had dual designs.

More recently, the tradition has also been adopted by Russia’s cosmonaut corps and European Space Agency (ESA) astronauts by introducing their own category suffixes.

Historically, emblems were only produced for members of the class. The Group 22 (2017) “The Turtles” patch became the first to be sold directly to the public when it was listed by AB Emblem, NASA’s official patch supplier, in September.

“The Flies” patch is so far only considered a work of art.

Since being selected, Team 23 Ascans have undergone flight training with the Navy, land survival courses with the Army, spacesuit and spacewalk training at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Facility, and geology field training in New Mexico. The class was also present for the first launch attempts of the uncrewed Artemis I mission, NASA’s first major step toward sending astronauts to the moon.

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