This Spaceflight Memorial patch commemorates the astronauts lost in the Apollo 1, Challenger, and Columbia disasters. Michael Okuda, a graphic designer who has worked with NASA as well as on Star Trek, designed the patch. The Greek letter "sigma" is a design element that designer Robert McCall and flight director Gene Kranz first used in a mission patch for NASA's Mission Control, representing the sum of the mission controllers' collective efforts. Okuda later updated that patch for NASA and incorporated the symbol in this design as well. The patch depicts an Apollo command and service module, a Space Shuttle orbiter, and the emblem of STS-107. The 17 stars represent the lives lost. Okuda received the NASA Exceptional Public Service medal in 2009 for his work on emblem designs, including this one.
The tragedies of the Apollo 1, Challenger, and Columbia missions provided a reminder of the dangers posed by spaceflight. For the thousands of workers employed as a part of the Space Shuttle Program, patches memorializing these disasters offered a way of expressing sympathy for the lost astronauts.
This patch belonged to Dennis Jenkins, a consulting aerospace engineer for the Space Shuttle Program, and author of Space Shuttle: The History of the National Space Transportation System, a definitive book detailing the development and first 100 flights, of the space shuttles. Jenkins donated the patch to the National Air and Space Museum in September 2011.