No SpaceX T-shirts for tourists at Cape Canaveral

27 May 2020 - 09:37 By AFP
File photo taken on May 20, 2020 released by Space X, the Crew Dragon spacecraft and the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket are pictured at Launch Complex 39A on May 21, 2020, as preparations continue for the Demo-2 mission at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
File photo taken on May 20, 2020 released by Space X, the Crew Dragon spacecraft and the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket are pictured at Launch Complex 39A on May 21, 2020, as preparations continue for the Demo-2 mission at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Image: SPACEX / AFP

NASA begged tourists to watch the SpaceX launch online, but space fans are still showing up in Florida. It would have been pretty good news for Brenda Mulberry -- if she'd had some SpaceX T-shirts to sell them.

"We can't sell SpaceX because they're a private company," said Mulberry, the owner of Space Shirts.

Her store is located on the main road in Merritt Island, the Florida peninsula that is home to the Kennedy Space Center where a SpaceX rocket carrying two astronauts will launch on Wednesday, the first manned US space flight in nine years.

In business since 1987, Mulberry has printed and sold T-shirts for every manned US space flight, complete with the NASA logo and photos, which are in the public domain and are not copyrighted.

For the space shuttles alone, which carried astronauts from 1981 to 2011, there were 135 missions, and so Brenda has 135 different T-shirts.

But for Wednesday's launch, she has only one souvenir shirt for people: the Crew Dragon capsule is visible below an American flag, along with the two astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, as well as the mission's NASA patch. But the SpaceX logo is nowhere to be seen.

And Mulberry has not a single SpaceX hat, keychain or poster in her store.

"I've respectfully asked permission, but I can't get it," she said.

She would have loved to add the Falcon 9 rocket to one of her best-sellers, a T-shirt emblazoned with photos of the four main rockets for the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs, as well as the shuttles.

But, she says, Falcon 9 belongs to SpaceX, not the American people.

On the beaches 

Mulberry's T-shirt problem is a sign that the new space era, announced with great fanfare by NASA, won't have the same flavor as the previous one. Wednesday's launch is not the result of an entire nation's effort, but that of the genius and creativity of SpaceX founder, Elon Musk.

The unwieldy programs of the past employed thousands of small- and medium-sized space businesses -- everyone on the "space coast" knew someone involved in the Apollo missions or the shuttles.

But Musk built his rockets entirely in his own Los Angeles factory, with just a few thousand workers.

He's the one the geeks admire, seemingly more so than the two astronauts who'll be risking their lives on Wednesday.

"It's not like it was back in those days when everybody knew their original astronauts," said Rusty Fischer, a Port Canaveral icon. He owns the restaurant Rusty's, at the water's edge, with a distant view of the launch pads at Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center.

He has seen every astronaut launch since Alan Shepard, the first American in space. Astronauts would hang out at his previous restaurant, Bernard's Surf.

Still, Fischer is convinced that his restaurant and the surrounding beaches will be "jammed" on Wednesday, to watch Hurley and Behnken's flight.

The long beaches used to fill with families to watch the shuttles lift off, right up until the last one in July 2011. Already, on Tuesday, there are tourists from Georgia, Indiana and San Francisco, not to mention the locals.

"The sheriff says let everybody in, and NASA says don't let anybody in, so I think the sheriff is going to win," said Fischer, amused.

("NASA has got their guidelines, and I got mine," the local sheriff said.)

As for souvenirs, the tourists can't even count on SpaceX's online store: there's still no merchandise to commemorate the company's greatest achievement. 

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