Geopolitical Imaginaries of the Space Shuttle Mission Patches

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This paper engages with the (geo)political imaginaries of the Space Shuttle mission patches, through a consideration of the iconography they contain. Each Space Shuttle mission had a unique patch designed to represent the mission, which were typically worn on the arm of astronauts’ space suits. Drawing on visual methodologies and popular geopolitics, this paper critically engages with the patches’ iconography, their descriptions in official documentation, and the histories that frame their production. In doing so, this paper advances three interrelated arguments. First, that the mission patches of the Space Shuttle programme presented a uniquely American framing of outer space in their iconography and can thus be read as geopolitical texts. Second, that the iconography within the patches reflected the contemporary geopolitics of their time of production, but continued to subtly demonstrate American dominance in outer space. Finally, that the consumption of the patches in museums and through popular culture assist in the construction of American Manifest Destiny in outer space. This paper presents tangible examples of humanity’s engagement with outer space through the production of material cultures, while also pushing forward the agenda for further critical geographical engagement with outer space.




Maclaren, A. S. (2021). Geopolitical Imaginaries of the Space Shuttle Mission Patches. Geopolitics, 26(3), 747–769.

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