Suggested Searches

3 min read

Happy Birthday, Meatball! NASA’s Iconic Logo Turns 65

A painter stands in the bucket of a crane lift and reaches out to apply a fresh coat of paint to the red, white, and blue NASA logo painted on a tan, corrugated hangar façade. He is holding a paint brush and a can of paint and wearing a harness, blue jeans, a white shirt, and sunglasses.
A painter applies a fresh coat of paint to the NASA “meatball” logo on the north façade of Glenn Research Center’s Flight Research Building, or hangar, in 2006.
Credit: NASA/Marvin Smith

On July 15, 2024, NASA’s logo is turning 65. The iconic symbol, known affectionately as “the meatball,” was developed at NASA’s Lewis Research Center in Cleveland (now called NASA Glenn). Employee James Modarelli, who started his career at the center as an artist and technical illustrator, was its chief designer.

The red, white, and blue design, which includes elements representing NASA’s space and aeronautics missions, became the official logo of the United States’ new space agency in 1959. A simplified version of NASA’s formal seal, the symbol has launched on rockets, flown to the Moon and beyond, and even adorns the International Space Station.

Along with its importance as a timeless symbol of exploration and discovery, the logo is also one of the world’s most recognized brand symbols. It gained its nickname in 1975 to differentiate it from NASA’s “worm” logotype. The “meatball” and these other NASA designs have made waves in pop culture.

"NASA's brand elements are wildly popular.”

Aimee crane

Aimee crane

Merchandising and Branding Clearance Manager

“NASA’s brand elements are wildly popular,” said Aimee Crane, merchandising and branding clearance manager for the agency. “Every year, the agency receives requests to merchandise more than 10,000 NASA-inspired items.”

To mark the “meatball” logo’s birthday and highlight the center’s contributions to its design, NASA Glenn will host a free admission day at Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET on July 15. A birthday celebration and cake-cutting ceremony will begin at 10:30 a.m. and feature remarks from center leadership, a visit from the Modarelli family, and special presentations from the city and state.

In this black-and-white photo, three workers stand below a large NASA logo sign. Two of the workers hold either end of the sign. They stand in front of a hangar building with scaffolding.
Workers install the NASA “meatball” logo on the front of the Flight Research Building, or hangar, at Lewis Research Center (now NASA Glenn) in 1962.
Credit: NASA

A host of additional activities will celebrate the intersection of science and art. Visitors can meet NASA Glenn’s award-winning photographers and videographers, show off their artistic skills by participating in a coloring contest, hear more about the history and symbolism behind the logo, and learn about creative careers within the agency.

“It’s not just rocket scientists here at NASA."



NASA Glenn Communications Director

“It’s not just rocket scientists here at NASA,” said Kristen Parker, NASA Glenn’s communications director. “As we celebrate the legacy of this iconic logo, we acknowledge the essential contributions of all the career fields involved in making the agency’s missions possible. We hope this inspires the next generation of students in every discipline to explore opportunities with NASA.”

NASA’s logo is everywhere. If you’re not in the Northeast Ohio area, join the logo’s birthday celebration online by engaging with NASA Glenn on social media and sharing photos of where you’ve seen the logo in your own life.

NASA Glenn designs and develops innovative technology that’s revolutionizing air travel, advancing space exploration, and improving life on Earth. Beyond designing the logo, the center has played a part in nearly every NASA mission since the agency’s inception and continues to have a crucial role in advancing the Artemis missions to the Moon and beyond.