Bring out your space related bits and pieces!
June 20, 2012 8:29 PM   Subscribe

Looking for a good motto, quote, or possibly a graphic related to space exploration/research, intended to be engraved on a gift pocketknife. I need ideas!

A gift for an acquaintance who is a space enthusiast. The target is a Kershaw Leek pocketknife. My initial idea for engraving was something along the lines of the Pioneer plaque, but I don't think that particular graphic would physically fit well on the knife. So the search is on for a motto, quote, or graphic that is interesting, maybe inspirational, relating to space, space travel, research, etc. Possible classical or biblical references to the stars or heavens might be good, too. An outside possibility is a good non cheesy scifi space related quote. Any ideas out there?
posted by 2N2222 to Science & Nature (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Is "Ad Astra!" too obvious/cliche?
posted by Wretch729 at 8:54 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

"Ad Astra Per Aspera" is a relatively popular motto. "To the Stars Through Hardships" or something like "To the Stars With Difficulties," depending on the charitable nature of your translator.

For some reason, it's the state motto of Kansas.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:54 PM on June 20, 2012

Perhaps a line from "High Flight" by Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr., RCAF.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air....

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent lifting mind I have trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
- Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

This is poem is mainly summoned by aviators, but the first and last lines were quoted by President Reagan when eulogizing the Challenger astronauts.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:02 PM on June 20, 2012

Voyager Golden Record or the Pioneer plaque?
posted by Runes at 9:04 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not sure if it'll fit on that blade but there's also "Earth is the cradle of the mind, but one cannot live in a cradle forever."
posted by Wretch729 at 9:04 PM on June 20, 2012

The Arecibo message might fit on a knife. The Drake equation (or one of the variants) would definitely fit.

There's a motherload of quotes at, I was chuckling at this one:

"There are a thousand things that can happen when you go light a rocket engine, and only one of them is good."
— Tom Mueller, SpaceX propulsion chief, Air and Space magazine article, January 2012.
posted by breath at 9:07 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

OK, that's what I get for not reading below the fold. How about the Wow! signal?
posted by Runes at 9:12 PM on June 20, 2012

I've always admired "RES GESTA PER EXCELLENTIAM" ("Achieve through Excellence"), which is featured on NASA's Mission Operations Directorate emblem. This emblem was displayed prominently in Mission Control.
posted by karizma at 9:26 PM on June 20, 2012

Here is my idea for a graphic: an outline drawing of an actual sized thumb (perhaps coming out from the bottom of the handle, where one's thumb could overlap), and near it, a small planet earth? You know, to represent distance/perspective in space. Isn't it a thing astronauts do, hold their thumbs over the earth and marvel that they can?
posted by to recite so charmingly at 9:58 PM on June 20, 2012

Ad astra per alia porci (to the stars on the wings of a pig), the motto of John Steinbeck.
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 12:38 AM on June 21, 2012

We came in peace for all mankind
posted by iotic at 3:34 AM on June 21, 2012

A gift for an acquaintance who is a space enthusiast.

Can you ask your friend what his favorite mission, program or astronaut is and let us know? The term "space exploration/research" is very generic considering the various aspects, missions, goals that have occurred over the last 50 years.

As a space enthusiast, I'd be cool with a gift that has a particular space related quote on it, sure. But I'd be absolutely thrilled with one that had the phrase "Fat on Fuel", because it was a phrase written by my favorite astronaut, in a book he wrote, describing the high point of his career. Note that it isn't a special phrase, first coined by this particular astronaut. But his use of it, at the particular time, encompasses what I like about him and is good general motto for life. That a friend would know that I like this quote and attach a meaning to it would make for a great gift.

So yeah, call him up and ask him what his favorite space exploration mission is and why. Let him prattle on about it, really listen to learn what aspect most interests him. Then research that aspect or just mention it here, there's enough space fiends on the site to give good ideas for a quote or graphic.

Side note: I would probably loath anything from the poem High Flight. It's a great poem, but so widely quoted by astronauts that it's a bit cliched.

Isn't it a thing astronauts do, hold their thumbs over the earth and marvel that they can?

Yes and no. Astronauts who went to the moon were able to do this, because they got far enough away that their thumb could cover up the Earth. Since the astronauts on the Shuttle or ISS are in low earth orbit, they are unable to do this.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:45 AM on June 21, 2012

"One small step for man" is the quote from Neil Armstrong when he set foot on the moon. It's at the same time an historic quote and a funny controversy known to most space enthusiasts: Armstrong meant to say "one small step for a man" (he had rehearsed it) but flubbed it. Sources: Snope, Wikipedia. It condenses nicely the tremendous accomplishment of landing on the moon and the small imperfections that make us human.
posted by bru at 5:37 AM on June 21, 2012

Starfleet Academy's motto was (will be?): ex astris scientia, or if you prefer real stuff it was based on the Apollo 13 ex luna scientia
posted by Segundus at 5:53 AM on June 21, 2012

A snippet, somewhat paraphrased, of Carl Sagan:
"A Glorious Dawn Awaits!"
posted by Sunburnt at 6:18 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

How about the Pale Blue Dot by Sagan?
posted by getawaysticks at 8:04 AM on June 21, 2012

I would probably loath anything from the poem High Flight.

Really. Please, not that -- now, for me anyway, it triggers bad memories of Jan 28, 1986. My choice would be Poyekhali!

Translated in various ways, my favorite being "Let's Go!" -- allegedly, it's what Gagarin said just after liftoff.
posted by Rash at 8:30 AM on June 21, 2012

"Let's Go!" -- allegedly, it's what Gagarin said just after liftoff.

"Arf! Arf!" --Laika

Or "Pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate" --William of Occam

Also, "Ain't nothin' to it but to do it." and "I'm all out of gum." are cool but not space-related.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:56 AM on June 21, 2012

Gus Grissom stood in front of a factory of people building Apollo parts and told them, "Do good work!" . The story is in The Right Stuff. (You can find the section in tootle books, its phenomenal) . One of my favorites because it shows NASA at its practical best, not as a romantic flight of fancy, but as a group of smart people solving a difficult problem.
posted by verdeyen at 7:55 PM on June 22, 2012

The choice was made, and the Arecibo Message it is. And here is the final result. Here with the blade opened. Thanks for all your input, folks!
posted by 2N2222 at 5:33 PM on July 31, 2012

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