In March 2008, several email messages were circulated within the boomerang community with information about a Japanese Astronaut who threw a boomerang aboard the International Space Station. Some of the news stories imply that this is the first time that a boomerang has been thrown in Space:
I made some inquiries and reviewed some old newsletters and found that this is not the first time that a boomerang has been thrown in space. It is not even the second time. It is the third time! A boomerang has been thrown in microgravity in an atmosphere aboard Spacelab (1992), Mir (1997) and the International Space Station (2008). All three of the space boom flights were made by non-American astronauts who hitched rides aboard American Space Shuttles. Many thanx to Maurizio Saba, Jacques Thomas, Jean-François Clervoy and Tibor Horvath for the following information.
The first space boomerang was thrown by German astronaut Ulf Meerbold. His friend and well known boom thrower Hartmut Steeb built the four bladed balsawood cross stick which was thrown by Ulf Meerbold. Ulf threw it in January 1992 when he was on Spacelab, after hitching a ride aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. This space boomerang is pictured on the front and back covers of the German newsletter DBC Info #38 (June 1992). The story can be found on page 17 of that publication.
The second boomerang thrown in Space was a two bladed cardboard model made by Jacques Thomas of France. This is the only 2 bladed boomerang that has ever been thrown in space. The thrower was the French Astronaut Jean-François Clervoy. Jean-François also brought a large two bladed MK-1 traditional boomerang, made by Jacques Thomas and several other small cardboard boomerangs with him. The throw was made on the Russian Mir Space Station in May 1997. Jean-François Clervoy travelled to Mir aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis. A photo of Jean-François Clervoy aboard the Mir Space Station with Jacques Thomas' MK-1 boomerang can be found on the cover of Boomerang New #46 (February 1998). You can download this issue of boomerang news, see the photo and read the story from the following URL:
In addition, a recent email to me from Jean-François Clervoy verified the flight of miniature indoor boomerangs inside Mir: "I have such fantastic memories of flying these small cardboard boomerangs. They were flying in circular loops in what ever planes I wanted since vertical or horizontal didn't mean anything anymore. Here attached is a picture of Jacques's boomerang with both the US and French flag on it. (Official NASA photo, see below). Cheers and all the best to the boomerang fan club."
Finally, on March 18 2008, Japanese astronaut Takao Doi took a three bladed boomerang (supplied by Yasuhiro Togai) aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor on a mission to install equipment on the International Space Station. The boomerang that he threw was the only space boomerang that was specifically designed for space flight. The photo of the boomerang that Maurizio supplied to me show that the blades are recessed to the rear, as you would find in a Fast Catch boomerang. This is the optimal design for a space boomerang because when the blades are shifted to the rear, the secondary precessional forces that cause a boomerang to lay over in flight are retarded. The Japanese team of Yasuhiro Togai and Takao Doi deserve credit for making and throwing the first [multibladed] boomerang that was optimized for use in microgravity conditions.
Anyway, congratulations go to all of the boomerang makers and astronauts who have helped promote boomerangs by having them thrown in Space.