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Space Station’s ‘42’ Crew Takes a Page from ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide’

What do astronauts and cosmonauts, a towel and a paranoid android have in common? The answer is 42.

The International Space Station's Expedition 42 crew members, who are due to assemble aboard the orbiting laboratory in November, have embraced the connection between their numerical designation and "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," the Douglas Adams sci-fi franchise, by adopting its imagery and slogans for their official poster and unofficial patch.

"I was super excited when I was assigned to an [space station] expedition, mostly because I was assigned to an ISS expedition, of course, but part of the excitement was that it was 42," Samantha Cristoforetti, an Italian astronaut representing the European Space Agency, said in a recent press briefing. "I am a big science fiction fan, and one of the things I really love is this 'trilogy in five parts' that some of you might know." [Snoopy to Sci-Fi: NASA's Most Offbeat Mission Posters]

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" is the first of five comedic science fiction books penned by Adams, as well as the title of the book within the novels. The story follows Arthur Dent as he narrowly escapes the destruction of the Earth and, with his friend Ford Prefect, explores the galaxy in search of a decent cup of tea and the meaning of everything.

"In this book, it is kind of funny, but '42' is the 'answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything,'" Cristoforetti said. "Now, nobody knows what the question is, but 42 is the answer."

Following a trend that began during the now-retired shuttle program, the Expedition 42 crew — Cristoforetti, together with commander Butch Wilmore and flight engineers Terry Virts, Alexander Samokutyayev, Elena Serova and Anton Shkaplerov — selected a movie poster to parody for their official crew poster.

— Robert Pearlman, CollectSpace.com

Click through to CollectSpace for more about the poster and Expedition 42's unofficial "Don't Panic" mission patch. Folow CollectSpace.com on Facebook and Twitter. Copyright 2014 CollectSpace.com. All rights reserved.