Symbols of NASA
07.08.08
The round red, white and blue NASA insignia

The NASA insignia is one of the agency’s best-known symbols. Image Credit: NASA



From the wing of the space shuttle to the top of the NASA homepage, the agency's official insignia is probably its best-known symbol.

The round red, white and blue insignia, nicknamed the "meatball," was designed by employee James Modarelli in 1959, NASA's second year. The design incorporates references to different aspects of the mission of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The round shape of the insignia represents a planet. The stars represent space. The red v-shaped vector represents aeronautics. The circular orbit around the agency's name represents space travel.


 
The word NASA in a unique typeface

NASA used the "worm" logo from 1975 until 1992. Image Credit: NASA





After it was introduced, the "meatball" was the most common symbol of NASA for 16 years, but in 1975 NASA decided to create a more "modern" logo. That logo, which consisted of the word "NASA" in a unique type style, was nicknamed the "worm." That logo was retired in 1992, and the classic meatball insignia has been the most common agency symbol since.


 
The NASA seal, with the words National Aeronautics and Space Administration U.S.A.

The NASA seal is used for formal agency events. Image Credit: NASA





In addition to the insignia, NASA has another official symbol. If the meatball is the everyday face of NASA, the NASA seal is the dressed-up version. The NASA administrator uses the seal for formal purposes such as award presentations and ceremonies. Like the meatball insignia, the seal also includes planet, stars, orbit and vector elements.


 
The STS-1 patch depicts a shuttle launch and the orbiter circling Earth, along with the words Young, Crippen and Columbia

Shuttle crews design patches for their missions, like this one used for the very first shuttle launch. Image Credit: NASA






NASA also uses symbols for specific projects within the agency. Each space shuttle crew designs a patch that represents what it will do during the mission. Some robotic probes sent to explore space have had mission patches.


 
A logo features the phrase 50 Years and the NASA insignia

The NASA 50th anniversary logo celebrates the agency's history and future. Image Credit: NASA








The agency also creates symbols for major events, like the NASA 50th anniversary in 2008. The design of the logo uses the zero in 50 to evoke an eclipse and includes a Hubble Space Telescope image of M81, a spiral galaxy similar to the Milky Way in which our solar system is located.


 
More About NASA Symbols
NASA "Meatball" Logo   →
NASA Meatball
Mission Patches   →
Mission Patch Explorers Games
NASA Unveils 50th Anniversary Logo
NASA 50th Anniversary

David Hitt/NASA Educational Technology Services