'Memorabilia thief' pleads guilty to stealing first US female astronaut's suit

Dr Sally Kristen Ride of California was the first American woman in space, and so holds a special significance for US space followers.

Memorabilia associated with the astronaut and physicist is naturally valuable - and perhaps Houston resident Calvin Dale Smith figured this too, leading to his alleged theft of Ride's suit including her name tag and the mission patch for her 1983 historic flight aboard space shuttle Challenger.

The alarm was first raised in May 2009 by Smith's wife, who had been contacted by his mother about getting together some of his personal belongings, notably those in a suitcase. Smith at that time was already serving a jail term for domestic violence involving a firearm.

"Which suitcase?" asked Smith's wife. "The suitcase" came the reply.

Smith's wife discovered the light blue suit, and allowed the information to find its way to the FBI and NASA. She subsequently discovered parts from a shuttle airlock, a safety tether assembly, an Omega watch and an astronaut flight jacket.

Sally Ride in space
Sally Ride, wearing a similar-looking suit whilst on Challenger

Smith was once employed by Boeing's Flight Processing Group, which at that time maintained astronauts' equipment.

The Omega Speedmaster watch was identified during an inquiry with the Swiss watchmaker's own museum by its serial number as having been delivered to NASA in 1978 and used on two shuttle missions.

This week, Smith pleaded guilty to taking and possessing the items, worth a total of around $10,000. If found guilty, he could face a fine of much more than that and a significant jail term.

At Paul Fraser Collectibles, we have already sold the light blue flight suit of Michael Collins, Apollo 11's Command Module Pilot, but collectors and investors will be excited to see that Buzz Aldrin's training suit, signed by the man himself, is still available.


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