In honor of Flag Day, the Stafford Air and Space Museum invites guests to view all of the flown flags that have been presented to General Thomas P. Stafford throughout the years, for his service in expanding and enhancing the space program.
The flags are displayed throughout the museum and will be specifically identified with markers for guests to observe. The museum will also be providing guests with an insert inside their Star Tour Guide, further explaining each flag and guiding them to the next display.
Stafford Air and Space Museum Marketing Coordinator, Brandi Rizzi, provided the following historical information on flown space flags:
There is nothing more symbolic of the technological greatness of the United States than a photo of an American astronaut with a U.S. flag on their shoulder. Yet, as strange as it sounds, it would not be until the eighth U.S. space mission – the flight of Gemini 4 in June, 1965 - before an astronaut would wear the stars and stripes on their shoulder. Every astronaut since has proudly worn a U.S. flag.
The crew of Gemini 4 also began a tradition of personally carrying aboard their spacecraft a small number of copies of the flags sewn on their space suits as souvenirs of the mission. After the flight, the astronauts would often present these small, flown flags to family, friends, politicians, and space program officials in gratitude for their support.
Since Gemini 4, every astronaut crew has made it a priority to carry small packets of not only U.S. flags, but also those of the 50 states and various countries, for post flight presentations that included the President and other heads of state. So rare were these flags, though, only the most important and deserving were fortunate to receive them.
The Stafford Air and Space Museum has in its collection fourteen of these rare flown flags that were carried aboard various American and Russian space missions. About half of these flags were carried by General Stafford aboard his four space missions, and the remaining flags were presented to him by various astronaut and cosmonaut crews out of respect for the extraordinary role he has played in the development of manned space flight.