Auctions come and auctions go, but this auction featured a polo shirt that has taken its former owner to the stars. Bidding for the pink polo shirt once owned by NASA astronaut Eileen Collins opened on 1 April at just $10. A week later and more than a day before its auction was set to close, collectors had pushed its price up to $300 and the final winning bid was $520.
“I can’t say it was easy for me to donate such an important part of my past,” Collins said. She wore the shirt while training for her four space shuttle missions and her career was a glittering one indeed. In 1995 she was the first female U.S. astronaut to pilot a spacecraft and just four years later, she was the first woman to command a space shuttle mission. Most recently, and humblingly, it was Collins who led the shuttle fleet’s 2005 return to flight after the loss of Columbia and its crew in 2003.
This shirt was important to her because Collins has only a few mementos from her time in space. “Astronauts can keep very little. [I have] only the personal items, such as my wedding ring, old toothbrushes, and some shirts!” she said. She donated the shirt, which is embroidered with her name and her astronaut class’ nickname, “The Hairballs,” on its front to be part of an annual auction run by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF). Founded by the Mercury astronauts in 1984, the ASF supports college students who are excelling in their pursuit of science and engineering degrees to give them the best chance of doing what Collins did – saying The Sky’s The Limit.
Polo-shirt image courtesy of austronaut scholarship foundation