Longtime NASA tradition tied to North Texas

Few men order more flowers than Mark Shelton.

"I need to send some roses to Mission Control, please," he told a florist over the phone.

At 54, Shelton has never worked for NASA, but he is responsible for one of its longest traditions. Every time NASA launches a shuttle, Shelton sends roses to Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Each rose represents every astronaut in space at the time. Shelton said he orders an extra white flower to represent the astronauts who have perished over the years.

He has sent a bouquet for every mission since 1987, the one following Challenger. It makes a total of 108 flower shipments in all.

"They don't get much attention in the media when things are going well," Shelton said of NASA. "But it's every bit as dangerous... every single [flight]. We wanted a way to give them a low-key reminder that the public cares."

NASA cares, too.

The space agency has invited Shelton to launches over the years, sent autographs from astronauts, Christmas cards from flight directors, and even a get well card when he had a heart attack.

"I don't know how they knew I was in the hospital then," he said.

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