One Family Has Sent Flowers to NASA for More Than 30 Years

Terry Shelton, MacKenzie Shelton, NASA's Milt Heflin and Mark Shelton

When he was a boy growing up in Fort Worth, Texas, one of Mark Shelton's more nagging childish concerns was that someday he'd grow too big to fit into a space capsule. That was the 1960s. NASA's Mercury program had just made its first forays around Earth. The Apollo program was in its planning stages. The moon landing was still a dream and years away. The Space Shuttle program suffered its first disaster in 1986, when the orbiter Challenger exploded barely a minute after liftoff, killing all seven astronauts on board. Shelton, like many others in America, watched in horror that day. He didn't know what to do to show his support, but he wanted to find a way to let them know that with every flight, people care. Shelton decided on sending a simple gesture: flowers. For every manned mission that NASA has flown since — even the first manned missions off U.S. soil since the Shuttle missions ended in 2011 — the family has continued the tradition. Over more than three decades, the Sheltons have sent more than 100 bouquets to Mission Control. "They have never missed one time, said Milt Heflin, retired NASA flight director. "They've always been supportive. Mark and I talk every once in a while. He'll call me and I'll call him. It's a friendship that has lasted. They are just so dedicated to doing this and to showing this support. That's what makes this really, really remarkable to me.” They even sent a bouquet to Mission Control for SpaceX's test launch of its Crew Dragon capsule on March 2, 2019, which docked successfully at the International Space Station. Thanks to Shelton and those like him, Heflin says, the more than 17,000 scientists, engineers, astronauts, teachers and many other professionals that work for NASA feel the appreciation.