NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will bring back a very special American flag on Saturday local time aboard the SpaceX manned Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station,media CNET reported. It’s a nine-year, multibillion-dollar “flag-grabbing” game.
Two NASA astronauts arrived at the International Space Station on Sunday. Perhaps the most important souvenir they will bring back to Earth is a small American flag that traveled during the first space shuttle mission (STS-1 in 1981) and the last (STS-135 in 2011).
Back in 2011, SpaceX appeared to hint at its intention to bring back the flag in a tweet. “SpaceX is starting a flag-capture program…” SpaceX founder Elon Musk retweeted the tweet Sunday, saying only one thing: “Nine years later.”
SpaceX has a competition with Boeing, another company involved in NASA’s commercial crew program, to reach the International Space Station. Boeing is working on some technical issues in its Starliner crew cabin, so SpaceX is winning.
The flag has a special connection to Hurley, one of the last crew members to leave the International Space Station in 2011. At a news conference from orbit Monday, Hurley said the flag represents the hard work of thousands of NASA and SpaceX crews who helped achieve the first manned launch on U.S. soil in nearly a decade.
Hurley showed the flag to reporters. It now bears the note from NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, who was already on the International Space Station: “Don’t forget to carry the crew of the manned Dragon. “We were lucky to be able to bring it home,” Hurley said. “
“The flag will continue to be displayed on the space station until the next crew member launching from the United States retrieves it and returns to Earth, so that it can be carried by the first crew member launched from the United States to embark on an exploration journey beyond Earth orbit.” NASA said in a 2011 statement on STS-135.