Astronauts’ mementos packed on Boeing Starliner for crew flight test

A NASA astronaut who had the honor of naming her spacecraft will fly items inspired by that name when she launches to the International Space Station next month.

Sunita “Suni” Williams, who is set to fly with fellow NASA astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmore on Boeing’s first Crew Flight Test (CFT) of its CST-100 Starliner capsule, will reveal the “Calypso”-related items once she is in orbit.

“A little homage to other explorers and the ships they rode on, I think we are going to call her ‘Calypso,'” said Williams in 2019, when she announced the ship’s name just after it returned to Earth from flying its first uncrewed mission.

Williams, a captain in the U.S. Navy with a self-professed love for the ocean, chose Jacques Cousteau’s research ship as the namesake for her and Wilmore’s Starliner. Calypso is also the daughter of Atlas in Greek mythology, and Boeing’s spacecraft flies to space atop United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rockets.

Boeing announced Williams’ intentions as it completed packing Calypso for the CFT launch, which is currently targeted for April 22. All that remains to be added to the vehicle are some late stow items and the astronauts, themselves.

The CFT Starliner will carry 759 pounds (344 kilograms) of cargo, including 452 pounds (205 kilograms) from Boeing and 307 pounds (139 kilograms) from NASA. Boeing will have 25 bags and NASA will have 11 bags stored in the cabin where Wilmore and Williams will be seated.

“Examples of Boeing cargo include vehicle supplies and tools, personal hygiene items for the astronauts and emergency life support equipment. NASA cargo includes food, clothing, exercise gear, medical supplies, photo/media equipment and crew personal preference items,” read a summary on Boeing’s website.

Boeing technicians load stowage bags into the CST-100 Starliner “Calypso” in preparation for the Crew Flight Test (CFT). (Image credit: Boeing)

In addition to the Calyso-themed surprises, Williams is taking up t-shirts from the Naval Academy and the Sunita L. Williams Elementary School in Massachusetts, as well as a diver pin and her pair of a U.S. Navy astronaut wings.

“I’m bringing things that got me to where I am today,” she told Boeing.

Williams has also packed dog tags that her mom had made for Williams’ Labrador retrievers, Gunner and Rotor, and many multicolor socks that she will wear in space. The footwear was inspired by retired astronaut Shannon Lucid, who gave Williams a pair of socks after Williams’ first space mission where she often went barefoot.

“She’s a wonderful, amazing lady and role model,” Williams said of Lucid. “I love having socks that feel good on your feet and that are bright and make you happy. One little way to make a statement about yourself. They’re just fun.”

For his part, Wilmore will be flying special gold rings, including two he gave his brother and father. He had the rings made to resemble the U.S. Navy’s astronaut wings. He did something similar for other family members during previous space shuttle flights.

Wilmore is also flying some items from Tennessee Technological University and the University of Tennessee, where he graduated.

Boeing is flying commemorative medallions on board the CST-100 Starliner “Calypso” for the Crew Flight Test (CFT). (Image credit: Boeing)

Launching with the astronauts’ personal mementos will be items chosen by Boeing and NASA. Together with the Space Foundation, Boeing is flying a flash drive containing more than 3,400 “space-themed masterpieces” submitted by students in 66 countries, including 35 U.S. states.

Following past tradition, Calypso will also carry small American flags, CFT mission patches and commemorative medallions, as well as NASA Silver Snoopy pins to be given out as mementos or awards to NASA and Boeing employees who worked to make the mission a success. If safely flown, the week-long CFT mission will clear the way for the Starliner to enter regular service flying crews to and from the space station.

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