Today’s NASA logo is very similar to the agency’s original insignia, but the iconic “worm” logo has adorned the spacecraft a few decades ago for more than 15 years. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine announced on twitter that “the worm is back” for the first launch of NASA crewed spacecraft. Yes, this is a Falcon 9 with a chic retro NASA logo.
From the beginning, NASA used a logo with a red chevron wing over a blue ball, surrounded by stars and a revolving spaceship. This is the same basic design that NASA uses today and is fondly referred to as the “meatball” logo. In the 1970s, NASA wanted to spice up its image. The meatball logo was also expensive to reproduce and print with the technology of the day. The advertising company Danne & Blackburn designed the “Wurm” logo in 1975 and became the official NASA logo the following year.
NASA never officially called its 1970s logo a “worm,” but it’s a fitting nickname for these curvy letters. The agency used this design during a pivotal time in its history, when it focused on near-Earth missions and long-range robot exploration from the moon landings. All early Space Shuttles bore the worm logo, as did the Hubble Space Telescope (which was introduced in 1990). NASA stuck to this design until the early 1990s when it returned to the classic meatball.
The return of the worm logo is said to mark an important new chapter in human space travel. The SpaceX Dragon II capsule will be the first private spacecraft to carry astronauts to the ISS and the first crew to launch from U.S. soil since the space shuttle’s departure. The Falcon 9, which carries this dragon capsule into space, now has the classic worm logo on its side.
NASA has been relying on Russian Soyuz crew transport missions for almost a decade, but that should end in the coming months. Both SpaceX and Boeing have developed spaceships for this purpose, but it looks like SpaceX is beating Boeing to the limit. Elon Musk’s space company quickly came back from a test accident that resulted in the destruction of a dragon capsule last year. In the meantime, Boeing failed its demo mission late last year due to software bugs. It is still under review as to how to proceed, but NASA hopes to launch its first crewed mission at SpaceX next month.