SpaceX Falcon 9 with NASA "worm" logo (Photo: NASA)

NASA adorns SpaceX rocket with famous ‘worm’ to celebrate imminent US astronaut launch

The worm is back. That is, according to NASA’s administrator, Jim Bridenstine.

The agency officially tweeted a photo on Thursday, April 2, showing a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster that will be used in the upcoming Demo-2 mission for Elon Musk’s private space company. Adorning the booster’s side was NASA’s worm logo.

Bridenstine said that the Crew Dragon booster will sport the vintage logo to mark the return of human spaceflight to American soil. But whether it’s here to stay or not, is a different question.

NASA’s iconic logo, called the meatball, was created along with the agency in the 1950s. It was seen as a patriotic symbol, featuring the same colors as the American flag: a red chevron wing on a blue sphere (which represents the planet), with white lettering.

The worm first debuted in 1975, as a sleeker alternative to the iconic NASA meatball. The original symbol of NASA, the meatball is a patriotic symbol, with white stars and an orbiting spacecraft accompanying white lettering.

But when the agency was prepping for its next era of spaceflight, the space shuttle era, the iconic blue meatball was replaced with a simpler, cleaner look — the worm. Created by Richard Danne in 1975 as part of the Federal Design Improvement Program, the new logo featured a simple, red type style. 

That simplistic design earned it a presidential award from Ronald Reagan in 1984, and the agency continued to use both logos until 1992 when the worm was officially retired. (It was, however, still used on clothing and souvenir items.)

But now it’s back. Just in time for crew missions to launch from Florida again.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will pilot Crew Dragon to the International Space Station (ISS) just two or three months from now. (NASA)

SpaceX is prepping for the last major test flight of its Crew Dragon. To date, an uncrewed version of the capsule has proven it can dock with the space station and demonstrated that its emergency escape system works flawlessly. Now, SpaceX and NASA are working toward the first piloted flight of a Crew Dragon spacecraft.

In mid-to-late May, two NASA astronauts — Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley — will strap themselves in and blast off towards the International Space Station. The space agency is still trying to determine how long their mission will last but in the meantime, the crew and their launch teams are practicing launch drills and preparing for the upcoming flight.

If all goes as planned with the Demo-2 mission, SpaceX could be ready to launch its second astronaut mission (Crew-1) as early as Q4 2020, or Q1 2021. To that end, NASA announced that astronauts Mike Hopkins and Victor Glover will have two more crewmates: NASA astronaut Shannon Walker and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi.

So which is your favorite? The worm or the meatball?

NASA adorns SpaceX rocket with famous ‘worm’ to celebrate imminent US astronaut launch
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