Carrying the flag

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Message posted by Peter Merlin (Member since 11/13/2003) on June 05, 2024 at 18:31:27 PST:

Apropos of nothing, I thought I would share a little bit of Groom Lake trivia from the days of the Space Shuttle program. It should come as no surprise that quite a few former USAF test pilots and engineers with backgrounds in "blackworld" testing applied to become astronauts. Many were finalists in the selection process and several ultimately earned their astronaut wings.

One of the first astronauts whose professional background was publicly linked to Groom Lake was Carl E. Walz. After serving as a flight test engineer at Edwards AFB, he was assigned to be Flight Test Manager at Detachment 3, Air Force Flight Test Center, from July 1987 to June 1990.

Subsequent to his selection for astronaut training, he made the first of four spaceflights in 1993 aboard the orbiter Discovery during the STS-51 mission. Despite space and weight restrictions, each mission carried an Official Flight Kit (OFK) containing a quantity of small items that would later be distributed as presentations. OFK items sponsored by NASA included mission patches, small US and state flags, pins, etc.

A significant number of OFK items were manifested at the request of the STS-51 crew members. These were mostly destined for presentation to military and municipal organizations, schools, and universities. The list is long, but one item stood out for me: a 3-foot by 5-foot US flag to be presented to Detachment 3, AFFTC.

Attached link: STS-51 Official Flight Kit


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