NASA originally planned to announce it would bring back its iconic “worm” logo on Wednesday, but the agency feared that people would consider it an April Fool’s Day joke.
Fortunately, it certainly isn’t. The worm is back, and that’s no joke.
The space agency said the retro-looking logo will be stamped on the side of the Falcon 9 rocket that will take astronauts to the International Space Station as part of SpaceX’s Demo-2 flight, currently scheduled for mid- to late May. NASA says there’s a good chance you’ll see the logo in other missions as well.
The change was prompted by Jim Bridenstine, the space agency’s administrator, who told Ars he’s a “huge fan” of the worm symbol.
“I thought marking the achievement of returning a manned spaceflight to American soil by returning the worm would be a fitting tribute to a historic achievement,” he said. “I am very grateful for the partnership with SpaceX and their willingness to work overtime to make this possible.”
NASA has only had two logos. There’s the original “meatball,” which was designed by an associate named James Modarelli in the space agency’s second year, 1959. The circular shape of the iconic logo represents a planet, the stars represent space, the red V-shaped wing stands for aviation, and circular orbit around NASA stands for space travel.
In 1976, as the agency sought to move beyond Apollo into the “modern” era with its burgeoning space shuttle, it created a new logo featuring NASA in a unique typing style. With this update, NASA sought to express a “sense of unity, technological precision, thrust and orientation to the future.” However, this “worm” logo was retired in 1992, when NASA returned to the meatball under the leadership of then administrator Dan Goldin.
Now the space agency will apparently use both logos in the future. NASA will continue to use the meatball as the main symbol, but the agency says it is assessing how and where the worm will be used.