Today’s NASA logo is very similar to the agency’s original badge, but the iconic “worm” logo adorned the spacecraft for more than 15 years a few decades ago. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine announced on Twitter that “the worm is back” for the first launch of a NASA crewed private spacecraft. Yes, it’s a Falcon 9 with a retro and stylish NASA logo.
From its earliest days, NASA has used a logo depicting a red chevron wing on a blue sphere surrounded by stars and a spacecraft in orbit. This is the same basic design used by NASA today, which is affectionately known as the “meatball” logo. In the 1970s, NASA sought to brighten up its image. The meatball logo also proved costly to reproduce and print with the technology of the time. Advertising company Danne & Blackburn designed the “worm” logo in 1975, and became the official NASA logo the following year.
NASA has never officially called its 70s logo the “worm,” but it is a fitting nickname with these winding letters. The agency used this design at a pivotal point in its history when it came from landings on the Moon to missions on Earth and long-range robotic exploration. All of the first space shuttles sported the worm logo, as did the Hubble Space Telescope (launched in 1990). NASA stayed with this design until the early 90s, when it returned to the classic meatball.
The return of the worm logo is intended to mark an important new chapter in human space flight. The SpaceX Dragon II capsule will be the first private spacecraft to transport astronauts to the ISS and the first crewed launch from US soil since the retirement of the space shuttle. The Falcon 9 that carries this Dragon capsule into space now has the classic worm logo on its side.
NASA has relied on Russian Soyuz missions to transport the crew for almost a decade, but that is expected to end in the coming months. SpaceX and Boeing have both developed spacecraft for this purpose, but it looks like SpaceX will beat Boeing with their fists. Elon Musk’s space flight company quickly returned from a test mishap last year that resulted in the destruction of a Dragon capsule. Meanwhile, Boeing failed its unmanned demonstration mission late last year due to software bugs. He’s still figuring out how to move forward, but NASA hopes to launch its first crewed mission with SpaceX next month.