Saturday, November 3, 2007

Did Tom Ever Fly the Shuttle?

Sadly, there are currently no known flown US $2 bills from the Space Shuttle program era. Coins and currency are not currently allowed to fly aboard the the Space Transportation System vehicle, even though it was a time honored tradition in the past. As Russ Still points out on page 285 of "Relics of the Space Race," this is a recent policy decision relative to the Shuttle: "Monetary items have been carried on many U.S. manned spaceflights. Although NASA spokesman Gloria Demers has indicated that it is currently against NASA policy to fly US currency, it does have a long history." (A long history to which my flown Jefferson's can clearly attest!) You can read about the restrictions on Shuttle cargo and personal effects at the following link on collectSpace. According to the listed regulations, astronauts on the Shuttle are prohibited from carrying "items such as philatelic materials and coins that, by their nature, lend themselves to exploitation by the recipients." This has been interpretated by NASA, I believe, to include currency. Therefore, the Jefferson-in-Space Museum will most likely never have a Shuttle flown exemplar. Although one can always hope, right? As of this writing, I am aware that some of the Russian cosmonauts that have flown on the shuttle to the International Space Station have carried currency with them -- and I have in my own collection a flown $1 bill from such a flight. But I am not aware of any $2 bills having been flown. Additionally, Purdue University students were reprimanded and their flown $1 bills confiscated, when they snuck them aboard via a University and NASA sponsored science project that flew on a shuttle mission. Those bills are in the possession of NASA. Therefore, if you ever hear of a flown shuttle $2 bill, please do contact me directly! I would be very interested in learning more about it, and perhaps acquiring it for the museum.

1995 Jefferson Hitches a Ride on the International Space Station

This Series 1995 $2 bill with the serial number F07347783B caught a ride on Soyuz TMA-2 (both there and back!) for a 6 month ride on the International Space Station - granting this Tom the distinction of being the longest space-faring Tom in the collection. Launched on April 25, 2003 from Baikonour Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, this bill accompanied Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko (ISS-7 Commander) and Astronaut Ed Lu on a six month mission as part of the 7th manned crew of the International Space Station. It is one of only 5 such bills that flew, docked at the ISS on April 28, 2003, and then spent 184 days in space, making 2,911 orbits of the Earth, before returning on October 27, 2003. This bill carries the official onboard ISS cancelation mark to the left on the front side of the bill, and Yuri Malenchenko's signature on the right.

ISS-7: Launch, Approach, Orbit, Sunrise, Return

Tom had a comfortable six month stay in the Russian Zvada module of the International Space Station...although the landing was a bit rough...

And now, take an actual "fly around" tour of the ISS in space. Just click on the link below -- and experience the wonders of Earth Orbit.

ISS Flown Flight Certification

Above is a picture of Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko as he signs the flown Jefferson, as well as the individual flight certification sheet post flight. It is interesting to note that Tom witnessed another first on the flight of ISS-7: the first wedding in space! Yuri and his bride were married "virtually" over the phone. (Note the ring on Yuri's left hand in the photo!)

...And three more, make 4 Flown!

Just recently, I was able to acquire the other three of the known flown US$2 bills from this mission, including their notes of provenance of flight. You will notice that of these three -- two are sequential in serial number, which is very cool; and they also carry the blue onboard ISS stamp along with the black ISS stamp. Like the first one I acquired, these are in crisp, uncirculated condition and come from the personal space collection of Yuri Malenchenko. OF the two new sequential bills, you will also note they are just one off in number from the first bill listed. This means I own 4 of the 5 known flown bills, and I would imagine that the one still outstanding is probably the one missing serial number between the first bill, and the second of the new three. I will always be on the hunt for that fifth bill...

2003 Jefferson Aboard SpaceShipOne for Historic Ansari X-Prize Flights

This is one of 10 uncirculated $2 bills that made both of the historic SpaceShipOne flights to claim the Ansari X-Prize, and establish SpaceShipOne as the leading private space craft vehicle. This particular bill (serial number I15894613A) took part in the first flight (X-1), which took place on Septebmer 29, 2004, with Astronaut Mike Melvill as the pilot. During a 24 minute and 11 second flight, Mike and Tom flew at the speed of Mach 2.92 and reached an altitude of 102.9 km in space. This very same bill was then flown on October 4, 2004 during X-2, by Astronaut Brian Binnie at the speed of Mach 3.09 and reached 112 km in space during a 23 minute and 56 second flight. With this second successful flight, Mike, Brian and Tom won for Scaled Composites the coveted Ansari X Prize, and forever placed them in the history books of manned space flight.

SpaceShipOne: Launch, Orbit, Earth, Landing

With the successfull winning of the Ansari X Prize by the crew of SpaceShipOne (with Tom's help, of course ), regular private spaceflight and a new chapter in space exploration inches closer and closer to reality.
And now, experience a hard-rock tribute to these historic flights. If the music is too loud, just turn down the volume. The pictures speak louder than words....and amazing trip for Tom, Brian, and Mike!

SpaceShipOne Flight Certification

Both Astronauts Mike Melvill and Brian Binnie have signed detailed flight certification letters for the SpaceShipOne flown Jeffersons. It is interesting to note, if you click on the image of the letter, that you can see in the lower right hand corner that the stationary used to print up the certification ALSO flew aboard the second flight.

Next stop...

With Thomas Jefferson being one of America's most experienced and well traveled unofficial accidental Astronauts, I wonder where off the planet he will find himself flying to next? Stay tuned...
...and if you hear of any other flights aboard which Tom might have flown, or (better yet)have one in your possession, please do contact me at I would love to hear from you -- and possibly add your Tom to my collection. Thanks for visiting.