Thursday, 4 October 2012

Unique space flags

The only objects on Earth to have flown on all spacecraft belonging to all nations with an active human spaceflight programme formed part of an extraordinary presentation by the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) at this year's 63rd International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Naples, Italy.

Special IAF 60th anniversary flags - flown on Soyuz TMA-20, the International Space Station, Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-134), and China's Tiangong-1 and Shenzhou-9 spacecraft - were presented to IAF member organisations by President Berndt Feuerbacher.

The flags, in commemorative frames along with mission logos and flight authentification certificates, were handed out to IAF member organisations as tokens of recognition and gratitude during an Extraordinary Session of the IAF General Assembly on Wednesday (4 October).

In his introduction to the presentations Prof Feuerbacher said this was the first time the IAF had arranged an extraordinary session for such an "extraordinary event".

He explained that for the IAF's 60th anniversary in 2011 the Executive Director at the time, Philippe Willekens, had wanted something unique and of value for members and came up with the plan for an anniversary flag to be flown in space.

Sergey Savelyev, Deputy Head of Roscosmos, said it had been in everyone's interests to support the initiative. "There is no limit to what we can do as an international team and the IAF helps us to do that. It was our privilege to fly these flags," he stated.

Zhasya Wang, head of China's manned spaceflight programme, added his own endorsement, saying: "We believe this event is an example of how IAF efforts can help advance the human spaceflight programme.

"Our agency is honoured to part of this great event and we gave our support, even though it came to us at short notice.

"Even though we had payload limitations we finally got approval from central government to complete the full circle of flying the flags on all of the space vehicles of the world."

Before handing out the frames flags Prof Feuerbacher expressed his sincere thanks to Roscosmos, NASA and the Chinese Manned Space Agency for this "wonderful cooperation".

The above is one of a series of daily reports from the International Astronautical Congress 2012 held in Naples, Italy, written by Clive Simpson for the Paris-based International Astronautical Association (IAF) and first appearing on the IAF website