Flown spacecraft ID plates
The manufacturers of each manned spacecraft had a tradition of creating a special identification plate that was attached to the interior of the spacecraft but designed to be removed after the flight to incorporate into presentations for the crew. Multiple identical plates were produced for each crewmember on the Gemini and Apollo missions so that each astronaut could be given their own presentation.
These highly-collectible momentos are described below.
Spacecraft ID plates - Gemini
Mike Collins' Gemini 10 flown
The McDonnell Aircraft Corp. had two identical spacecraft identification plates fitted in each Gemini capsule during the manufacturing process as momentos for the crew. These brass plates measured 4" x 1.5" (102mm x 38mm) in size and were attached above the astronauts' heads inside the hatch openings, as visible in this photo (with thanks to Jay Rubin for spotting this).
After a flight the plates were removed, at which point the mission date was added and they were then attached to specially-made wooden plaques which included a small model of the Gemini spacecraft under a representation of the St. Louis Arch. These were then presented to the two crewmen by McDonnell.
The Gemini 10 spacecraft id plate was engraved as follows:
GEMINI SPACECRAFT NO. 10
FLOWN availability - Two id plates were flown on each crewed Gemini flight making a total of twenty flown Gemini spacecraft id plates. I've seen six of these plates sold at auction as noted in the Annex below, but may well have missed some.
Spacecraft ID plates - Apollo Command Module
As the manufacturer of the Apollo Command Module, Rockwell created the identifcation plates for these spacecraft. The brass plates were attached to the interior structure of the spacecraft and removed by Rockwell during the post-flight inspection. The launch date was then added to each plate before being fixed to a specially-designed pen and pencil marble desk set produced by Sheaffer.
Jim Lovell's Apollo 8 Command Module
Each brass plate measured 3.25" x 1.75" (82mm x 44mm) in size and was mounted on a 10" x 5" x 0.75" (25cm x 13cm x 2cm) marble desk set.
The Apollo 8 spacecraft id plate, shown on the right, is engraved as follows:
It is worth noting that the design of the desk set was apparently changed slightly for Apollo 16, as a lucite block containing a fragment of the spacecraft heatshield was mounted behind the ID plate.
FLOWN availability - Three id plates were flown on each crewed Command Module flight so there were a total of six CM s/c id plates flown to Earth orbit (Apollos 7 & 9), nine flown to the moon without landing (Apollos 8, 10 & 13), and eighteen flown to the lunar surface. Going beyong the lunar missions there were of course a further twelve scid plates flown to Earth orbit on the three crewed Skylab flights and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project mission.
A number of these flown s/c id plates have found their way to auction over the years as noted in the Annex below.
Spacecraft ID plates - Apollo Lunar Module
As with Rockwell and the Command Modules, Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corp. produced similar spacecraft identification plates for the Apollo Lunar Modules
Dick Gordon's Apollo 12 Lunar Module
A spacecraft identification plate was fixed inside each Lunar Module when it was manufactured, and three identical copies were made as souvenirs. These three plates were stowed in the PPKs or Official Flight Kit at launch, although whether this was in the Command Module or Lunar Module is not entirely certain.
The three identical plates were returned to Grumman after the flight at which point the launch and splashdown dates were added and the plates were affixed to a wooden wall plaque for presentation to the astronauts.
Each brass plate measured 5.25" x 1.75" (133mm x 44mm) in size and was mounted on a 10" x 11" (25cm x 18cm) wooden shield-shaped wall plaque beneath a metal die-cut representation of the lunar module.
The text on the spacecraft identification plate from the Apollo 12 Lunar Module, affixed to the plaque shown on the right, reads as follows:
APOLLO XII LUNAR MODULE-6
FLOWN availability - Three id plates were flown on each crewed Lunar Module flight for presentation to the crews, so there were a total of three LM scid plates flown to Earth orbit (Apollo 9), six flown to the moon without landing (Apollos 10 & 13), and eighteen possibly flown to the lunar surface. A number of these flown s/c id plates have found their way to auction over the years as noted in the Annex below.
In addition to the spacecraft id plates flown for the astronauts it appears that Grumman produced an unknown number of LM plates for at least the Apollo 12, Apollo 15 and Apollo 16 missions to present as gifts to key employees.
The plate shown on the right was apparently presented after the flight to a key Grumman employee who had worked on the Apollo 12 Lunar Module, and is identical to the examples presented to the astronauts except for the addition of the employee's name at the bottom left of the plate. This plate was mounted on a wooden block with an inscription stating that it was flown on the mission.
In 2020 further plates from Apollo 15 and Apollo 16 waere sold at auction. These had been awarded to a Grumman manager and were also understood to be flown. These examples were identical to the flown plates in all respects, but unlike the Apollo 12 example above they did not have the employee's name engraved on them.
It is not clear whether Grumman had these extra plates flown by NASA, or whether it was arranged directly with the astronauts. Nor do we know the number of plates flown, or whether it was done for every mission. However, given the fact that only three such plates have surfaced to-date it is safe to assume that the overall number flown must have been fairly low.
Annex: Flown spacecraft ID plates sold at auction or identified in private or museum collections
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