This merino wool scarf was the first Australian made souvenir to be carried on the Space Shuttle. It was carried by Mission Specialist Astronaut Dr. Margeret Rhea Seddon (known as Rhea) on the United States Space Shuttle discovery (STS-51), April 12-19 1985, for the Australian Women Pilots Association (AWPA).
Before entering NASA Dr Seddon worked as an emergency room doctor in Tennessee. In 1978 she was selected as one of the first six women to enter the NASA Astronaut program, as part of Astronaut Group 8. Dr. Seddon was a Mission Specialist on Shuttle missions STS 51-D (1985) and STS-40 (1991), and served as the Payload Commander on STS-58 (1993). She remained with NASA until 1998, when she returned to her medical career. She married her Group 8 Astronaut colleague Robert 'Hoot' Gibson and they have three children.
In 1983, Dr Seddon, an accomplished pilot in her own right, was the special guest at the Australian Women Pilots Association Conference at Airlee Beach, Queensland. She offered to take a small memento of the Australian Women Pilots' Association on her forthcoming mission into space. The Australian Women Pilots Association was founded in 1950 to assist women to achieve their goals in aviation.
The scarf was designed by Barbara Collins of the AWPA and Dougall Pleasance of the Australian Wool Corporation. Collins had previously been associated with the AWC and it was at her instigation that the organisation took part in the development of the 'Space Scarf' as an AWPA souvenir to be carried into space by Rhea Seddon. 100 replicas of the original scarf were produced for sale exclusively to AWPA members.
This scarf is a significant item in the Museum's collection of space material not only because it has been flown in space, but because of its unique provenance, being the first Australian-made souvenir carried on the Space Shuttle. In addition it relates to the first flight of one of the United States' first female astronauts and complements similar holdings in the space collection.