July 31 - August 08, 1992.
Atlantis was commanded by USAF Col. Loren Shriver, making his third Shuttle flight. Marine Corps Major Andy Allen served as pilot, making his first flight. Mission specialists included Claude Nicollier, a European Space Agency astronaut making his first Shuttle flight; Marsha Ivins, making her second Shuttle flight; Jeff Hoffman, making his third space flight; and Franklin Chang-Diaz, making his third space flight. Franco Malerba from the Italian Space Agency was the payload specialist aboard Atlantis.
Designed by the crewmembers assigned to the flight, the STS-46 crew patch depicts the Space Shuttle Atlantis in orbit around Earth, accompanied by major payloads: the European Retrievable Carrier (EURECA) and the Tethered Satellite System (TSS- l). In the depiction, EURECA has been activated and released, its antennae and solar arrays deployed, and it is about to start its ten- month scientific mission. The Tethered Satellite is linked to the orbiter by a 20-krn. tether. The purple beam emanating from an electron generator in the payload bay spirals around Earth's magnetic field. The TSS mission will study the dynamics and electrodynamics of tethered systems in space and the physics of Earth's ionosphere. Visible on Earth's surface are the United States of America and the thirteen-member countries of the European Space Agency (ESA), in particular, Italy--partner with the USA in the TSS program. The American and Italian flags, as well as the ESA logo, further serve to illustrate the international character of STS-46.
A Personal Story...
Who came up with the idea for the patch ?
It was a team effort but the leader was Claude Nicollier with the help of some Graphist from the JSC Astro Office.
Can you tell me something about the design proces of the patch ?
We had first a few proposals and then a few reviews in our crew meetings. I don't recall of any real conflict. Claude, very kind and "consensus oriented" was the right man for the job.
Who desingned the patch ?
I believe the designer was Claude himself with strong involvement of Jeff Hoffman and whole crew support.
Can you tell me something about the symbols on the patch ?
Any NASA patch attempts to capture the highlights of the mission to be performed; in our case we had two main payloads (Eureca and Tethered) and three space Agencies involved (NASA, ESA and ASI). For NASA and ASI we preferred the national flag, but for ESA it was not possible to use the EU flag (because the EU and ESA membership is not the same). In order to give more room to the Tethered payload graphic representation, we decided to "kick" the flags out of the main circle; this gave the patch its unique "balloon-shape".
What was your reaction when you first saw the pacth ?
The first version had a yellow electron beam which did not look right to me (but would save one color and make the patch cheaper). I - as the science Payload Specialist - insisted for a magenta beam (a special color, revealed by our electron beam tests in the vacuum chamber).
What do you think when you look back at the patch ?
The patch is the strongest crew symbol, I often wear the pin version of it; to me, it's almost like a personal business card!
Did you had a personal patch for this flight ?
Yes and no. There was a Payload patch dedicated to Eureca and one to Tethered-TSS-1; I was the prime PS for TSS-1 and wore the TSS-1 patch on my astro suit, but in a sense this patch was less personal because I had no involvement in its design nor it had my name on.
..."The STS-46 patch shows the tethered satellite missions and the focus on plasma physics"...