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 May 22, 1992. The three logos include the NASA insignia (also known as the "meatball"), 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) morphed into an agency that would advance both astronautics and aeronautics—the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
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 the orbiting spacecraft going around the wing. It is known officially as the insignia.
NASA "meatball" insignia
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.
NASA "worm" logotype, 1975–1992
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 on Friday May 22, 1992.
The design is used only for special occasions and commercial merchandising purposes approved by the Visual Identity Coordinator at NASA Headquarters.
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:
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- Executive Order 10849 (Wikisource)
- Executive Order 10942 (Wikisource)
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- Art of the Seal, New York Times 2009-03-08
- The history of the meatball vs the worm