Spaceflight companies set limit on carry-ons: souvenirs not for sale

Here, William Shatner is preparing for Blue Origin's spaceflight. He reveals the restrictions placed on the crew’s carry-ons.
While Captain Kirk may have flouted the rules while commanding Starship Enterprise, William Shatner seems to be following the Blue Origin guidelines when it comes flying in space.

The "Star Trek" actor-turned-soon-to-be-astronaut revealed one of the company's lesser-known restrictions while discussing the personal items he was packing for his New Shepard rocket ride this week.

Shatner stated that he was allowed to bring a small blue bag with mementos. He also said that he had friends and family collecting mementos for me to bring up. Then he quickly stated, "You can't sell that."

Shatner said that the contents of the kit cannot be monetized. "No, it's for your small purposes only."

Live updates: Follow William Shatner’s Blue Origin launch here

This rule is not exclusive to Shatner, and may be a deterrent for Star Trek fans who hope to one day buy a spaceship that flew with him into space. This applies to all Blue Origin passengers, including Shatner’s three NS-18 crewmates, Chris Boshuizen, Glen de Vries, with Dassault Systems, and Audrey Powers (Blue Origin's head for mission operations).

Blue Origin spokesperson stated that they prohibit anyone selling any items onboard with them. This was in response to's inquiry. "The restrictions are contained in the document astronauts must sign before they fly on New Shepard."

Related: Star Trek movies ranked worst-to-best

Commercial space without the commercial

Blue Origin was established by Jeff Bezos (ex-Amazon CEO). He did not elaborate on the ban on clients selling space souvenirs.

Blue Origin New Shepard NS-18 Crew member Glen de Vries carries his "blue satchel", which he carries with him, and other mementos for space flight. Blue Origin Image Credit

Blue Origin's senior manager of public relations, Sara Blask, stated that "the terms of our launch services agreement are confidential."

Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson's commercial aerospace company, and a competitor of Blue Origin, has a similar policy regarding passengers who launch items from its SpaceShipTwo rocket plane.

"We will allow our Future Astronauts to keep personal mementos. However, we must ensure that these comply with safety regulations and commercial principles. Clare Pelly, the head of Virgin Galactic's astronaut office, wrote an email to collectSPACE.

Pelly says photos and other personal items are fine and can be shared with friends, family, and the community as needed. However, the company will not allow items to be sold.

Pelly wrote that "our policy is not allow any commercial exploitation flight reservations" and that Pelly would want to make sure that private individuals have a great flight experience without being bound by third-party obligations. This will be covered by the Conditions of Carriage each customer will sign prior to their flight. They will also include restrictions and limitations on the use of mementos.

Personal preference kits

Since the early days of human spaceflight, astronauts and cosmonauts have been carrying personal items with them on their missions. These small mementos had no monetary value at first and were more often given as gifts to family, friends, and coworkers.

The public's desire to own a piece of space exploration increased with the expansion of human activities. Not long after, some astronauts began using personal preference kits (PPKs), which included items donated by commercial interests. Crew members were either compensated or traded for items that could be later sold.

This is an example of an early NASA personal preference tool (PPK), which Michael Collins used on Apollo 11 in 1969. Image credit: Smithsonian

These side deals were discovered by lawmakers who wanted to stop any profiteering in spaceflight, which was still a government-funded affair. NASA was forced to define what astronauts could use and keep private items from being sold, transferred, used, or transferred for personal gain.

Furthermore, "items like philatelic [stamp related] materials and coins which, by nature, lend themselves for exploitation by recipients" were outright banned. This restriction still exists today.

These rules only apply to NASA astronauts, and they will be retired from government service when they no longer need them. They are then free to sell, donate, or dispose of any personal items that they were allowed to keep during their space missions. The same applies to astronauts from other space agencies, but some are more open for their crew members to take part in commercial opportunities.

It is not clear if passengers on Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, and other airlines will experience a similar expiration, or if any exceptions will be made.

SpaceX recently completed Inspiration4, their first private-funded mission as an astronaut. To raise $200 million for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, the crew sold mementos from their flights. It wasn't clear if the items were sold only for charitable purposes or if they could also have sold them for personal gain.

Pelly stated that Virgin Galactic is not against any charity that raises money, but that they are still working out the rules. In 2022, the company will begin flying paid passengers.

Shatner and Blue Origin crewmates will keep their items private.

Shatner said, "I have three to four small trinkets from people." They will be kept in the little blue bag."

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