The American crew of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project did not wear embroidered
mission patches on board the USS New Orleans immediately after the flight. As can be seen in the photo above they wore their
if-flight coverall garments complete with beta cloth patches.
However, when the crew stopped-over in Hawaii after the flight they wore their blue flight suits complete
with embroidered ASTP mission patches as shown in the photo on the right.
The crew even had embroidered mission patches sewn on the robes they wore at the Army hospital there, as shown in
Finally, whilst the U.S. crew wore beta cloth patches during their space flight, the Russian crew actually wore embroidered patches
on their in-flight garments, including the ASTP mission patch, as can be seen on the left.
The high-res photos from the Retro Space Images ASTP disc set show that all these patches
were the same version, which is also the one used in NASA presentations from the period.
This patch is by AB Emblem but it shows a distinctive characteristic which is not present
in all vintage bare-cloth-back examples of their patch - a clear gap between the blue and red blocks of thread around
the stars and the outer red border of the patch.
It is not clear at present if this is just a natural variation in an early run of the regular AB Emblem patch or a small but
distinct design difference between an initial run produced for NASA (and early commercial runs) and the later commercial runs. Whatever the case this particular
version seems to be relatively scarce and the association with the crew(s) seems close enough to make this worthy of the 'Crew Patch' designation.
Whilst there is some question as to whether the above patch is really a distinct version, there is one design of patch
which we can unhesistatingly call a Crew Patch as, like the Apollo 17 crew before them, the ASTP crew had a set of special oversize (4¾") patches made with the intials of each crew
member sewn into the design.
These initialed Crew Patches, produced in a run of just 150 examples per crew member by AB Emblem,
were never available commercially. However, examples from what was likely a production overrun came to market in 2005/6. By my count there were roughly
86 TPS, 73 VDB and 66 DKS patches sold at this time.
Although it was not apparently know at the time it seems that at least some examples of the ASTP initialed crew patch were also made for the Russian
crew of Leonov and Kubasov, as a handful of examples came to market amongst the other overruns in 2006. I have only seen one genuine example of a Leonov patch sold and three examples of the Kubasov patch, so these remain exceptionally rare (and sought-after) patches.
The high prices fetched by the over-run patches when they initially came to market led inevitably to people producing sets of replicas. Unfortunately these have been consistently marketed as if they are the original patches which makes them more fakes than replicas. In the section below you will find examples of the three versions seen to-date.