SSEP Mission 19 to ISS: Mission Patch Art and Design Competition



October 4, 2024: Deadline for Community’s first draft of a One- or Two-Patch Plan to be Received by NCESSE via Email, by 5:00 PM Eastern Time (USA)

NOTE: once received, NCESSE will determine if the Plan includes all needed information, and is consistent with all requirements necessary for a community to fly a Mission Patch(es) (see Section 5 below). If a Plan is not acceptable, the submitting community will be notified as soon as possible, and have until 5:00 PM ET on October 11, 2024, to submit an approvable Plan.

October 11, 2024: Deadline for Community’s One- or Two-Patch Plan to be Approved by NCESSE, by 5:00 PM Eastern Time (USA)

March 4, 2025: Deadline for NCESSE to Receive: i) Mission Patch(es) to fly to ISS, ii) jpg image(s) of flight Mission Patch(es), and iii) a post-completion description of your competition(s) (see Section 5 below), by 5:00 PM Eastern Time (USA)


1. SSEP Mission Patch Introduction

The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) is about inspiring America’s next generation of scientists and engineers, and engaging entire communities in the process. Student teams proposing real experiments to fly on the International Space Station is the core SSEP activity. But community-wide engagement, and cross-disciplinary learning are also cornerstone objectives for SSEP in the context of the embraced Learning Community Model for STEM education (see the Community Program page.)

In this spirit, and continuing the tradition of SSEP started on the final flights of Space Shuttles Endeavour and Atlantis, we’re providing the opportunity for you to conduct an art and design competition across your community—for a large number of students—to create a Mission Patch—a paper 3.5-inch x 3.5-inch square emblem that captures your SSEP experience. We will then fly your Mission Patch in space as part of the payload containing your experiment, and it will be returned to you embossed with a certification stating that it flew in space. The mission patch competition is also an opportunity to keep community-wide excitement alive post experiment selection while we’re all waiting for launch, and a means to extend the program in an interdisciplinary manner to engage, e.g., classes in art and design, and history.

A historical note: Mission patches have been part of human spaceflight since the days of Project Mercury in the 1960s (see, e.g., this page at the NASA History Program Office). The SSEP Mission Patch competition therefore allows communities to engage in another authentic aspect of the space program, and broadens SSEP to be more appropriately designated as a STEAM education initiative – Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics.

We invite communities participating in SSEP Missions 14-20 to use their Mission Patch competitions to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Landings on the Moon, and humans returning to the Moon with NASA’s Artemis Program starting in 2025.

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The flight of Apollo 11 to the Moon, crewed by astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, may be arguably the most remarkable journey ever undertaken by humankind. At 9:56 pm EST on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on another world.

In 2019 the world celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, and it is noteworthy that 1.5 billion people alive today were alive in 1969.

But the Apollo program included a total of 9 missions with a spacecraft traveling to the Moon, and 6 of those missions each landed 2 astronauts on the lunar surface. To date, 12 humans have walked on the Moon – a quarter of a million miles from our home world Earth. These missions took place 1968 to 1972 – from Apollo 8 –  the first spacecraft to fly around the Moon in December 1968, to Apollo 17 – the final Apollo Moon landing in December 1972.

50 years after the Apollo moon landings, NASA’s Artemis Program will return humans to the lunar surface in 2026. Artemis 1 launched from Kennedy Space Center on November 16, 2022, successfully placing an uncrewed Orion spacecraft into lunar orbit. Orion returned to Earth on December 11, 2022, splashing down in the Pacific off the coast of California. Artemis 2 is expected to launch in 2025 with a crew of 4 for a flyby of the Moon. Artemis 3 is expected to launch in 2026 with a crew of 4, and land humans on the Moon for the first time since Apollo 17 in 1972.

The  National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) is using SSEP Missions 14 through 20 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of NASA’s Apollo Program, and humanity’s return to the Moon with Artemis, given SSEP program operations for these 7 missions span 2019-2026. SSEP Mission 14 started in September 2019, and SSEP Mission 20 is to start in Fall 2025.

SSEP Mission SSEP Program Operations Apollo / Artemis Mission Dates
Mission 14 2019 – 2020 1969 – Apollo 11, 12; 1970 – Apollo 13
Mission 15 2020 – 2021 1970 – Apollo 13; 1971 – Apollo 14, 15
Mission 16 2021 – 2022 1971 – Apollo 14,15; 1972 – Apollo 16, 17
Mission 17 2022 – 2023 1972 – Apollo 16, 17; 2022 – flight of Artemis 1 – uncrewed
Mission 18 2023 – 2024
Mission 19 2024 – 2025 2025 – expected flight of Artemis 2 – crewed lunar flyby
Mission 20 2025 – 2026 2026 – expected flight of Artemis 3 – crewed lunar landing

We invite your community to use your SSEP Mission Patch Art and Design Competitions – through multidisciplinary connections to STEM, history, and art – to capture your community’s participation in America’s Space Program through SSEP, celebrate the most remarkable journeys undertaken by the human race 50 years ago, and embrace a new era of human exploration of the Moon with Artemis. It is an opportunity to celebrate the past, embrace the present, and inspire in our next generation … the future. What better way to inspire the next generation than engaging a community of hundreds of students in the real space program, and real spaceflight, on the frontiers of human exploration.


2. Important Community Engagement Objectives for the Competition

While the mission patch competition should be open to at least the students participating in the SSEP experiment design competition—which is limited to grades 5-16—we strongly encourage each community to broaden participation by opening the mission patch competition to wider student involvement across grades K-16, to classes beyond STEM disciplines, and to student groups across your community—even the community beyond your school. The idea is COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT with hundreds to thousands of your students given the opportunity to participate. You should view the mission patch competition as one way your entire community can celebrate involvement in this program, and become aware of your student scientists designing real microgravity experiments for the International Space Station.

Each community will set a deadline for receiving mission patches from their students, and define its own process for selecting the winning patch. The deadline for the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education to receive the winning mission patch from each community is 5:00 PM ET, March 4, 2025.


3. We Will Fly Up to TWO Mission Patches Per Community

We want to encourage each community to reach out to grades K-4, and to those students in the greater community that might not be participating in the experiment design competition. We will therefore fly up to TWO mission patches per community. But the idea is to give two different student groups the opportunity to have their own competition, as a means of broadening engagement. The intent is not to have a competition for a single group and fly the top two patches.

Just two examples:

i. recognizing that students’ art and design skills at lower and upper grade levels are significantly different, a competition to select a single patch to fly will put the lower grade level participants at a disadvantage. A community might therefore propose one competition at, e.g., grades K-4 and a second competition for grades 5-12.

ii. a cluster of middle schools might be participating in the experiment design competition. One mission patch competition for the middle school cluster makes obvious sense. A second competition for all elementary feeder school students would then provide broader community engagement, and provide a natural link between elementary and middle school audiences.


4. An Approved Plan From Your Community is Required to Fly Any Patch

For a community to fly one or two patches, NCESSE requires the community to submit a plan. Your plan should not be longer than a single page. (Most plans are just one or two paragraphs).

A “One Patch Plan” needs to describe a mission patch competition that has been designed for community engagement, and needs to state the minimum number and grade levels of students that will be engaged in the competition.

A “Two Patch Plan” has the same requirements as a One-Patch Plan, but must also demonstrate how two different groups – through two separate competitions – will be engaged, and how that plan extends SSEP to a wider community beyond those students engaged in flight experiment design. The Two Patch Plan must state the minimum number and grade levels of students that will participate in each competition.

Note: for a selected mission patch to fly, it must have resulted from a design competition where the expectation is that at least hundreds of students were engaged. Here are minimum required engagements:

For a 1-Patch Plan, there must be a minimum of 200 students formally engaged
For a 2-Patch Plan, there must be a minimum of 100 students formally engaged in each of the two competitions

A competition that at its conclusion did not meet these minimum engagements will mean that the selected flight patch(es) will not fly.

Note: while a Plan can certainly provide the total number of students that are to be given the “opportunity” to participate, for a Plan to be approved, it must include the minimum number of students that “will” participate. This normally means that the art and design competitions should not be optional, but should be formally embedded as a requirement in art and design classes. Otherwise the community runs the risk of not meeting the student engagement targets in their approved plan, and not even meeting the minimum engagement requirements stated above, which will result in forfeit of the opportunity to fly the winning patch(es).

We encourage you and your team to think creatively. NCESSE will strive to turn around a review of your plan in 24 hours. Note, however, that the deadline for NCESSE to receive the first draft of your plan is 5:00 pm ET, October 4, 2024. Most plans require one or more revisions. The deadline for NCESSE to receive an approvable final draft is 5:00 pm ET, October 11, 2024. Please email your plan to


5. Mission Patch Requirements

At right is the selected Mission Patch from Charles County, Maryland, which flew with their experiment on STS-135, the final flight of Shuttle Atlantis, and the final flight of the U.S. Space Shuttle program. Click on their patch to see it up close and personal. See all the Mission Patches that flew on STS-134 (Endeavour), STS-135 (Atlantis), and Missions 1 through 16 to ISS, at the SSEP Mission Patch page, which is found at the separate SSEP Community Network Hubsite.

On arrival back on Earth, your Mission Patch(es) will be returned to you for your community to display. It will be a testament to the participation by your students, teachers, and community in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program, and a truly remarkable student research experience on the International Space Station.


1. A Mission Patch must be a piece of paper NO LARGER than 3.5-inch x 3.5-inch, and its design should reflect pride in your community, and your participation in the SSEP.

2. There is no restriction on the type of paper or the inks to be used. But to fly, it must be paper not card stock or cardboard. Patches submitted on card stock or cardboard will be (and have been) rejected.

3. A Mission Patch can be black & white or full color.

4. A Mission Patch can only be composed of a single sheet of 3.5-inch x 3.5-inch paper and the ink on the paper.

5. A Mission Patch cannot include multiple layers of paper glued or taped on top of one another.

6. We require a jpg image of each Mission Patch flying so we can display it on the SSEP website.

7. We require a short writeup of your Mission Patch competition(s), which must reflect the Mission Patch Plan you submitted and that NCESSE approved. The writeup must include: the number of students that actually participated in the mission patch design competition(s); the grade levels of the students that participated in the competition(s); and the total number of patches you received from your local competition(s). This description will also be placed on the SSEP website. The description can be no more than 150 words (See, e.g., the Mission 17 to ISS Mission Patch page).

8. Your community is responsible for the cost of shipment (e.g., USPS Priority Mail, UPS, or FedEx) for: 1) mailing the Mission Patch(es) to NCESSE, and 2) for return to you after the flight.

Important note on choosing the right shipping option: Your flight Mission Patch reflects the culmination of hundreds of your students engaged in the SSEP experience, and serves as a symbol of your community that is destined to travel to space. On return to Earth, it’s worth noting that your Mission Patch had traveled 400,000 miles each day aboard ISS, as ISS orbited the Earth at an altitude of 260 miles – 47 times higher than Mt. Everest. These are all powerful teachable moments, and you might naturally view your Mission Patch as something priceless. In this context – when shipping your patch(es) to NCESSE, and when providing the required pre-paid return mailer (see below), we therefore strongly recommend using a shipping option that allows tracking of your package, such as USPS Priority Mail, UPS or FedEx. You should not use USPS surface (First Class) mail. 

All communities must send their Mission Patch(es) to the address below, and are required to include a PRE-PAID priority return mailer, whether you use USPS Priority Mail, UPS or FedEx. NCESSE will not cover the cost of return mailing.

Send your Mission Patches to:

John Hamel
National Center for Earth and Space Science Education
Attn: SSEP Mission Patch
1287 Bell Farms Lane
Palmyra, VA 22963

The jpg image(s) of your Mission Patch(es), and the writeup of your Mission Patch competition(s), should be sent via email to John Hamel, Education Program Manager, at:

The deadline for NCESSE to receive your Mission Patch(es) that will travel to ISS, jpg images, and writeup of the Mission Patch competition(s): 5:00 pm ET, March 4, 2025. 


6. Turning Your Mission Patch into a REAL Cloth Mission Patch or Lapel Pin

Click for Zoom

A number of SSEP communities like Charles County, Maryland, West Hills, California, and East Lyme, Connecticut, decided to turn their winning mission patch designs into real cloth mission patches, and make them available across the community. The cloth patches can be sewn to e.g., clothing, and backpacks, and are a wonderful way to promote community-wide awareness and engagement in SSEP. At right is the layout for a cloth patch from East Lyme Connecticut. The vendor they used was the Patch Superstore:, 866-577-2824

Click for Zoom

Fitchburg Massachusetts decided to turn their patches into a lapel pin. At lower right is the layout of one of their patches as a pin. The vendor they used was All About Pins:, 866-604-9462

You might even consider selling patches and pins to raise money for a community delegation to travel to the launch and to the SSEP National Conference at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

From the entire SSEP National Team to all the students, teachers, parents, and administrators in your community, have fun with the Mission Patch art and design competition!

The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) is a program of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in the U.S., and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education internationally. It is enabled through a strategic partnership with DreamUp PBC and NanoRacks LLC, which are working with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory. SSEP is the first pre-college STEM education program that is both a U.S. national initiative and implemented as an on-orbit commercial space venture.