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Flight Plans Newsletter

New Exhibit Features Unique Diamond Astronaut Pin

Date: 
09/28/2012

 

New Exhibit Features Unique Diamond Astronaut Pin

A crown jewel in spaceflight history center of new Deke Slayton exhibit

Free admission on opening day, Sept. 29, with Museum Day tickets  

 

 

SEATTLE, Sept. 28, 2012--A new exhibit honoring NASA astronaut Donald "Deke" Slayton (1924-1993) opens at the Museum on Sept. 29, Museum Day, offer free admission with online Museum Day ticket. The centerpiece of the exhibit is Slayton's diamond astronaut spaceflight lapel pin. Slayton was grounded from spaceflight for medical reasons just before he was to become the second American to orbit the Earth in 1962. Because of this, he was not issued a NASA spaceflight pin (akin to wings for pilots). Then in 1967, the crew of Apollo 1 had a unique spaceflight pin made for Slayton as a show of respect. The astronauts planned to give it to him after they had flown it in space, but they perished in a tragic fire on the launch pad during a pre-flight training session. The astronauts' widows gave Slayton the pin, and he wore it in their honor for the rest of his career - except for a few weeks when it went to the Moon with Apollo 11 at the request of Neil Armstrong. The pin is legendary in the history of the NASA manned space program.

 

Neil Armstrong was personally involved in developing a museum exhibit honoring Slayton and securing a permanent home for Slayton's pin (Slayton's widow Bobbie died in October 2010). The Museum of Flight was chosen for this honor by Armstrong, other astronauts and friends of the Slayton family in 2011. During the Museum's Sept. 22, 2012 Wings of Heroes Gala, the jewel was ceremoniously granted to the Museum by Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan and the widow of Apollo 1 astronaut Roger Chafee, Martha Chafee.

 

Free Admission on Smithsonian Media Museum Day Sept. 29

The Museum Day ticket is available to download at www.smithsonian.com/museumday. Visitors who present the official pass will gain free admission for two people to participating museums and cultural venues. One ticket is permitted per household, per email address.   

   

Deke Slayton

Slayton was one of the original group of seven astronauts chosen by NASA in 1959. In 1962, the NASA medical staff was concerned with his irregular heartbeat and grounded from spaceflight shortly before his first mission. Slayton would have been the second American to orbit the Earth. Unable to fly in space, Slayton became the Director of Flight Crew Operations. He was instrumental in the selection of spaceflight crews until the end of the Apollo Moon program. In 1972 NASA cleared Slayton's medical status for spaceflight, and he flew on the Apollo-Soyuz Test in 1975. He died of cancer in 1993.

 

Slayton played a significant part in the success of American race to the Moon. Neil Armstrong said of him in 2011, "During Deke's tenure at the top, no pilot error or pilot inadequacy jeopardized a human space flight. He had made certain that they were ready to perform. He was a great leader and his contributions are under recognized."

 

 

The Story of Deke Slayton's Pin

Traditionally, professional pilots earned their wings and other special pins throughout their career. The unique astronaut pin design was soon adopted by the Mercury Seven at the behest of team mate Wally Schirra. NASA awarded a silver pin upon their selection into the astronaut corps, and a gold pin after their first spaceflight. As one of the Mercury Seven, Slayton had a silver astronaut pin.

 

In 1966, Slayton selected the crew for the first Apollo mission. The group included one of his closest friends, fellow Mercury astronaut Gus Grissom; the first U.S. spacewalker, Ed White; and rookie Roger Chafee. The mission was planned to be the first manned flight of the new Apollo spacecraft and was scheduled for a February 1967 launch. Sensing it was unlikely that Slayton would get a chance to fly into space, the crew decided, at Gus' urging, to present him with a gold lapel pin that signifies the completion of an astronaut's first mission. Knowing their friend Deke would not accept a pin identical to the type worn by astronauts who had flown in space, the crew had one specially designed with a diamond inset into the pin's distinctive star. Grissom and his crew planned to carry the pin into space and present it to Slayton after the mission as a token of their admiration and respect. They never got that chance. The entire crew perished in a fire during a routine ground test of their spacecraft on Jan. 27, 1967.

 

The widows of the crew - Betty Grissom, Pat White, and Martha Chafee - endeavored to carry out their husbands' wishes and presented this pin to Slayton in the aftermath of the tragedy. He was deeply moved, and wore the pin constantly in honor of his fallen friends.

 

A couple years later, Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong asked Slayton if he could part with the pin for about a few weeks. Armstrong wanted to add it to his "Personal Preference Kit" that would accompany him on history's first Moon landing. The pin was put in the kit with other mementos, plus small pieces of wood and linen from the Wright brothers' historic 1903 aircraft. On July 20, 1969, Slayton's diamond pin was on the Moon. It was returned to Slayton following three weeks in NASA's Lunar Quarantine after the flight.

 

In 1972 NASA cleared Slayton's medical status for spaceflight. He was assigned to the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project mission with fellow astronauts Vance Brand and Tom Stafford. On July 17, 1975, they docked their Apollo capsule with a Soviet Soyuz 7K-TM spacecraft flown by cosmonauts Alexey Leonov and Valery Kubasov. Slayton finally earned his gold astronaut pin, but it was the diamond pin that he continued to wear.

 

Photo: Deke Slayton's diamond astronaut spaceflight lapel pin. The Museum of Flight. 

 

Access this and all other Museum of Flight news releases online at:

http://www.museumofflight.org/press/archives

 

###

The non-profit Museum of Flight is one of the largest independent air and space museums in the world. The Museum's collection includes more than 150 historically significant air- and spacecraft, as well as the William E. Boeing Red Barn® -- the original manufacturing facility of the Boeing Co. The Airpark includes outdoor displays with the first jet Air Force One, a Concorde airliner, and the first Boeing 747 jumbo jet. The Museum aeronautical library and archival holdings are the largest on the West Coast. The Education Office offers weekend family programs, programs for students and educators, and overnight camps for children. McCormick & Schmick's Wings Café is on site.

 

The Museum of Flight is located at 9404 E. Marginal Way S., Seattle, Exit 158 off Interstate 5 on Boeing Field half-way between downtown Seattle and Sea-Tac Airport. The Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $17 for adults, $14 for seniors 65 and older, $13 for active military, $9 for youth 5 to 17, and free for children under 5. Group rates are available. Admission on the first Thursday of the month is free from 5 to 9 p.m. courtesy of Wells Fargo. For general Museum information, please call 206-764-5720 or visit museumofflight.org.

Mike Bush 

Director of Marketing
and Public Relations
253.307.3225

Ted Huetter
Public Relations
and Promotions Manager
206.437.7584

 

New Exhibit Features Unique Diamond Astronaut Pin

A crown jewel in spaceflight history center of new Deke Slayton exhibit

Free admission on opening day, Sept. 29, with Museum Day tickets  

 

 

SEATTLE, Sept. 28, 2012--A new exhibit honoring NASA astronaut Donald "Deke" Slayton (1924-1993) opens at the Museum on Sept. 29, Museum Day, offer free admission with online Museum Day ticket. The centerpiece of the exhibit is Slayton's diamond astronaut spaceflight lapel pin. Slayton was grounded from spaceflight for medical reasons just before he was to become the second American to orbit the Earth in 1962. Because of this, he was not issued a NASA spaceflight pin (akin to wings for pilots). Then in 1967, the crew of Apollo 1 had a unique spaceflight pin made for Slayton as a show of respect. The astronauts planned to give it to him after they had flown it in space, but they perished in a tragic fire on the launch pad during a pre-flight training session. The astronauts' widows gave Slayton the pin, and he wore it in their honor for the rest of his career - except for a few weeks when it went to the Moon with Apollo 11 at the request of Neil Armstrong. The pin is legendary in the history of the NASA manned space program.

 

Neil Armstrong was personally involved in developing a museum exhibit honoring Slayton and securing a permanent home for Slayton's pin (Slayton's widow Bobbie died in October 2010). The Museum of Flight was chosen for this honor by Armstrong, other astronauts and friends of the Slayton family in 2011. During the Museum's Sept. 22, 2012 Wings of Heroes Gala, the jewel was ceremoniously granted to the Museum by Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan and the widow of Apollo 1 astronaut Roger Chafee, Martha Chafee.

 

Free Admission on Smithsonian Media Museum Day Sept. 29

The Museum Day ticket is available to download at www.smithsonian.com/museumday. Visitors who present the official pass will gain free admission for two people to participating museums and cultural venues. One ticket is permitted per household, per email address.   

   

Deke Slayton

Slayton was one of the original group of seven astronauts chosen by NASA in 1959. In 1962, the NASA medical staff was concerned with his irregular heartbeat and grounded from spaceflight shortly before his first mission. Slayton would have been the second American to orbit the Earth. Unable to fly in space, Slayton became the Director of Flight Crew Operations. He was instrumental in the selection of spaceflight crews until the end of the Apollo Moon program. In 1972 NASA cleared Slayton's medical status for spaceflight, and he flew on the Apollo-Soyuz Test in 1975. He died of cancer in 1993.

 

Slayton played a significant part in the success of American race to the Moon. Neil Armstrong said of him in 2011, "During Deke's tenure at the top, no pilot error or pilot inadequacy jeopardized a human space flight. He had made certain that they were ready to perform. He was a great leader and his contributions are under recognized."

 

 

The Story of Deke Slayton's Pin

Traditionally, professional pilots earned their wings and other special pins throughout their career. The unique astronaut pin design was soon adopted by the Mercury Seven at the behest of team mate Wally Schirra. NASA awarded a silver pin upon their selection into the astronaut corps, and a gold pin after their first spaceflight. As one of the Mercury Seven, Slayton had a silver astronaut pin.

 

In 1966, Slayton selected the crew for the first Apollo mission. The group included one of his closest friends, fellow Mercury astronaut Gus Grissom; the first U.S. spacewalker, Ed White; and rookie Roger Chafee. The mission was planned to be the first manned flight of the new Apollo spacecraft and was scheduled for a February 1967 launch. Sensing it was unlikely that Slayton would get a chance to fly into space, the crew decided, at Gus' urging, to present him with a gold lapel pin that signifies the completion of an astronaut's first mission. Knowing their friend Deke would not accept a pin identical to the type worn by astronauts who had flown in space, the crew had one specially designed with a diamond inset into the pin's distinctive star. Grissom and his crew planned to carry the pin into space and present it to Slayton after the mission as a token of their admiration and respect. They never got that chance. The entire crew perished in a fire during a routine ground test of their spacecraft on Jan. 27, 1967.

 

The widows of the crew - Betty Grissom, Pat White, and Martha Chafee - endeavored to carry out their husbands' wishes and presented this pin to Slayton in the aftermath of the tragedy. He was deeply moved, and wore the pin constantly in honor of his fallen friends.

 

A couple years later, Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong asked Slayton if he could part with the pin for about a few weeks. Armstrong wanted to add it to his "Personal Preference Kit" that would accompany him on history's first Moon landing. The pin was put in the kit with other mementos, plus small pieces of wood and linen from the Wright brothers' historic 1903 aircraft. On July 20, 1969, Slayton's diamond pin was on the Moon. It was returned to Slayton following three weeks in NASA's Lunar Quarantine after the flight.

 

In 1972 NASA cleared Slayton's medical status for spaceflight. He was assigned to the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project mission with fellow astronauts Vance Brand and Tom Stafford. On July 17, 1975, they docked their Apollo capsule with a Soviet Soyuz 7K-TM spacecraft flown by cosmonauts Alexey Leonov and Valery Kubasov. Slayton finally earned his gold astronaut pin, but it was the diamond pin that he continued to wear.

 

Photo: Deke Slayton's diamond astronaut spaceflight lapel pin. The Museum of Flight. 

 

Access this and all other Museum of Flight news releases online at:

http://www.museumofflight.org/press/archives

 

###

The non-profit Museum of Flight is one of the largest independent air and space museums in the world. The Museum's collection includes more than 150 historically significant air- and spacecraft, as well as the William E. Boeing Red Barn® -- the original manufacturing facility of the Boeing Co. The Airpark includes outdoor displays with the first jet Air Force One, a Concorde airliner, and the first Boeing 747 jumbo jet. The Museum aeronautical library and archival holdings are the largest on the West Coast. The Education Office offers weekend family programs, programs for students and educators, and overnight camps for children. McCormick & Schmick's Wings Café is on site.

 

The Museum of Flight is located at 9404 E. Marginal Way S., Seattle, Exit 158 off Interstate 5 on Boeing Field half-way between downtown Seattle and Sea-Tac Airport. The Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $17 for adults, $14 for seniors 65 and older, $13 for active military, $9 for youth 5 to 17, and free for children under 5. Group rates are available. Admission on the first Thursday of the month is free from 5 to 9 p.m. courtesy of Wells Fargo. For general Museum information, please call 206-764-5720 or visit museumofflight.org.

Mike Bush 

Director of Marketing
and Public Relations
253.307.3225

Ted Huetter
Public Relations
and Promotions Manager
206.437.7584