The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) logo has three main official designs, although the one with stylized red curved text (the "worm") has been retired from official use since 1992. The three logos include the NASA insignia (also known as the "vector"), the NASA logotype (also known as the "worm"), and the NASA seal.
The NASA logo dates from 1959, when the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) metamorphosed into an agency that would advance both astronautics and aeronautics — the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
After a NASA Lewis Research Center illustrator's design was chosen for the new agency's official seal, the executive secretary of NASA asked James Modarelli, the head of Reports Division at Lewis Research Center, to design a logo that could be used for less formal purposes. Modarelli simplified the seal, leaving only the white stars and orbital path on a round field of blue with a red vector. Then he added white N-A-S-A lettering.
In the NASA insignia design, the sphere represents a planet, the stars represent space, the red chevron, in the alternate shape of the constellation Andromeda, is a wing representing aeronautics (the latest design in hypersonic wings at the time the logo was developed), and then there is the orbiting spacecraft going around the wing. It is known officially as the insignia.
In 1974, as part of the Federal Graphics Improvement Program of the National Endowment for the Arts, NASA hired Richard Danne and Bruce Blackburn to design a more modern logo. In 1975, the agency switched to the modernist NASA logotype, nicknamed "the worm", a red, stylized rendering of the letters N-A-S-A. The A's horizontal bar is removed in the worm logo. The NASA logotype was retired from official use in 1992. The design is used only for special occasions and commercial merchandising purposes approved by the Visual Identity Coordinator at NASA Headquarters. As of 2013, this logo, altered by the use of blue lettering instead of red, is still in use by the NASA Federal Credit Union.
The official NASA seal is reserved for use in connection with the NASA Administrator. It is used in more formal traditional and ceremonial events such as award presentations and press conferences. According to NASA Headquarters, the seal should never be used with the NASA insignia, since the two elements are intended for different purposes and are visually incompatible when seen side by side.
Like most images produced by the United States Government, the insignia, the "worm" logo and the NASA seal are in the public domain. However, their usage is restricted under Code of Federal Regulations 14 CFR 1221. These NASA emblems should be reproduced only from original reproduction proofs, transparencies, or computer files available from NASA Headquarters.
The colors used in the logo are the following:
- Ellen Lupton (1996). Mixing Messages: Graphic Design in Contemporary American Culture. Princeton Architectural. ISBN 156898099X.
- NASA takes `meatball' over `worm', The Roanoke Times, (May 24, 1992).
- "Rover's stunning image of lander". BBC News. 2004-01-21. Retrieved 2010-01-06.
- Executive Order 10849 (Wikisource)
- Executive Order 10942 (Wikisource)
- Greenbaum, Hilary (August 3, 2011). "Who Made Those NASA Logos?". The New York Times. Retrieved August 3, 2011.
- "History of the Insignia". NASA.
- "Code of Federal Regulations 14 CFR 1221". Retrieved 2007-11-21.
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