The NASA worm logo from the 1970s is back and it is set to brand SpaceX Falcon 9 on an important space mission this May.
The NASA worm logo, the agency’s short-lived and largely unused branding back from the 1970s to the early ‘90s, is being pulled back into active duty.
Accordingly, the return of the logo is part of the agency preparations for the return of human spaceflight on U.S. soil with the help of commercial aeronautic company SpaceX.
The NASA worm logo returns for the next chapter of space exploration! https://t.co/a5r0q6Btvt
— Exploration Science (@NASA_Lunar) April 3, 2020
A tale of two logos
Back when the worm logo was first used, NASA’s logo was what everybody had come to affectionately call as “the meatball.” This is the logo that many generations of science enthusiasts associate with the agency.
But during the Nixon administration, a sweeping update of all federal logos and branding were instituted. NASA was not spared from this, and so the worm was born.
Designers and marketing people loved it. The overall goal of the redesign was two-pronged; Nixon wanted to update the general perception of the agency, and it was also designed to broaden the scope of NASA’s potential mission so that it contributed more to the country’s economy.
However, the redesign didn’t go over so well with the agency’s employees. Many believed it digressed from the original goals of NASA.
Others thought that the redesign pushed an obvious political agenda, according to NASA historian Bill Barry in an interview with CNN.
The design stayed despite employee dissatisfaction. However, not long after the failed launch of the Hubble Space Telescope, newly appointed NASA administrator Daniel Goldin reinstated the meatball in order to boost internal morale.
Lost, but not entirely
Although decommissioned in theory, the worm stayed on in the odd nooks and crannies of NASA. Most notably, the logo remained in many of the souvenirs and shirts from the agency.
It also stayed on as the definitive NASA logo for many who grew up during the worm’s heyday. Generation X babies, in particular, remember the logo variant fondly.
As @NASA prepares for the return of human spaceflight to American soil, a series of news conferences will be held on May 1 that will preview @SpaceX's Demo-2 mission, which is a crewed flight test to @Space_Station. ????
— NASA's Kennedy Space Center (@NASAKennedy) April 28, 2020
Brand-new space age
Today, NASA is recommissioning the worm in order to mark the return of human spaceflight in the United States. According to the agency, the logo will be used on the Falcon 9 vehicle that will ferry astronauts to the International Space Station in May.
The meatball will remain as the agency’s official logo, but NASA is currently assessing the division of labor between the two logos.
Images courtesy of NASA