Stuff We Love: NASA’s retro Worm logo is rocketing into the future

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Jun 29, 2017

With everything vintage now en vogue, it should be no surprise that NASA has blasted off with the trend.

Retired into the chasm of space decades ago, the ‘70s-era “worm” logotype is a retro-cool take on the iconic acronym lettered with curved edges and uncrossed A’s that mimic the nose of a rocket ship. NASA has exclusively used its original 1958 “meatball” logo (unofficially named so for its round shape) since. Everyone associates that star-studded blue orb with missions to the final frontier. Now that the space agency has dusted off its 1976 graphics manual and leveled up its published merchandising regulations to allow a Worm redux, top-secret talks with designers have led to the logo suddenly appearing on everything from T-shirts to high-end designer collections.

The 1976 design manual that's back in commission.

"It's not NASA's official logo, the meatball definitely takes precedence in terms of being NASA's identifier,” said Bert Ulrich, NASA liaison for multimedia, film and television collaborations. “but there has been a clamoring for the Worm on merchandise."

Looks like its popularity is shooting to galactic proportions. Merchandising requests have come flying in from designers looking to get in on this far-out opportunity. NYC designer Vivienne Tam gave it a test flight on her space-influenced spring/summer 2017 collection, and Coach is sticking it on throwback styles of their luxury leather handbags, sweaters, keychains and even a retro varsity jacket that could make you feel like you have a degree in rocket science for a day. Both have dreamed up versions of the logo in alien brights and neons that NASA had never explored. There is also an ultracool T-shirt at Target (see above) that features the worm on the front and the meatball on the sleeve along—but unfortunately, it’s only for toddler boys. For now.  

What’s even cooler is that since the Worm can only be used with imagery peculiar to the era it emerged from, you won’t be seeing Hubble or Curiosity orbiting it on any of the new merch, but expect a blast from the past that could possibly include zombie satellite ISEE-3 or Viking or either of the Voyagers. Personally I’d love to see it hovering over Voyager 1 against a vast sky of stars.     

"I think this is just coming out of the fact that people think the worm is cool and has this retro feel to it," said Ulrich. "Which is great, because it is representative of the public's interest in NASA and space exploration."

I want it emblazoned on everything I own.