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A patch for the stars

Written by  Thursday, 19 October 2023 14:19
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Marcus Wandt in Axiom Space flightsuit Image: Marcus Wandt in Axiom Space flightsuit

Patches are an integral part of every astronaut mission. Space agencies print out a cloth reproduction that astronauts wear during their flight, a tradition that started sixty years ago.

ESA project astronaut Marcus Wandt from Sweden will travel to the International Space Station on Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3) no earlier than January 2024.

He is wearing six patches in this picture with his Axiom Space flightsuit: his Muninn and Axiom-3 mission patches, emblems from the European Space Agency and Axiom Space, as well as from the Royal Swedish Air Force and the Swedish flag.

Mission patches for astronaut missions tend to be a blend of the space travellers’ personality, the mission goals, and the creativity of an artist. The name and symbolism behind Marcus’s mission were a good starting point for inspiration.

His mission is called Muninn, a name coming from Norse mythology and one of the two raven accomplices of the god Odin – Huginn and Muninn. According to the myth, the two ravens serve as messengers and advisors to their god, sharing all they see and hear.

ESA graphic designer Karen Lochtenberg worked together with Marcus and started with the basics – preferred colours, patches he liked, symbols for the mission and something personal. After a few sketches and iterations, the design had a clear direction.

The Muninn patch on his right arm shows the raven gliding around Earth to share the knowledge collected during Marcus’s mission. The dark blue circle represents Earth and includes lines depicting Marcus’s homeland, Sweden. The patch displays the two colours of the Swedish flag – blue and yellow – with two white stripes next to Muninn’s upper wing refer to the distinctive solar arrays of the International Space Station.

The constellation resembles a Viking symbol for protection. The lines from Muninn’s lower wing are a reference to supersonic shock waves from jets. Marcus is a test pilot for the Swedish Air Force.

The Ax-3 patch on his chest is shaped as a shield to illustrate strength and courage. The International Space Station is centred and angled to be seen as aviator wings, symbolising four ‘pilot’ astronauts flying to low Earth orbit with the spirit of exploration and collaboration.

The number 500 in the Ax-3 crew patch represents a jubilee year for Sweden as the country celebrated five centuries as an independent nation on 6 June 2023. The number 100 denotes centennial milestones for Türkiye and Italy.

The mission’s motto, ‘Further, beyond’, is written in Latin (PLVS VLTRA) around the bottom edge of the patch. The names of each crew member are seen in alphabetical order with flags of the countries they represent: Türkiye, Spain, USA, Italy and Sweden.

Find more about the story behind the Muninn patch on ESA’s Exploration blog, and follow Marcus’s space journey on X and Instagram.

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