A special case of branding with two logos

Last April 2020, NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) made the notable decision to bring back its “worm” logo, first introduced in 1975 to replace its original logo (known affectionately as the “meatball”).

NASA "worm" logo and photo montage featuring this logo
The NASA “worm” logo. (Image credit: NASA)

The worm was subsequently retired in 1992, when NASA decided to bring back the meatball to replace it.

Original NASA "meatball" logo
The original NASA “meatball” logo. (Image credit: NASA)

The worm had always been a cult favorite among NASA fans, adorned on clothing and other memorabilia. Now, NASA has officially readopted the logo after an 18-year hiatus.

Interestingly, the worm now serves as a secondary branding alongside the original meatball, which continues to serve as the organization’s primary insignia.

What made the worm significant back then

For myself as an American, and surely many, many others, the introduction of the new worm logo in the 1970s signified an exciting new rebirth in the US space program with development of the Space Shuttle, and the eager anticipation toward its eventual deployment into space. Its introduction also marked the conclusion of a highly successful chapter in US space history with the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo rocket missions.

The worm logo continued to serve as a significant branding element with the historic first launch of the Space Shuttle in 1981, and the many subsequent launch missions throughout the 1980s.

However, the worm logo wasn’t really popular internally within NASA, and eventually it was retired in 1992 in favor bringing back the original meatball – part of a broader measure to boost morale which had suffered since the 1980s.

What makes the worm significant today

NASA’s decision to bring back the worm in 2020 signals another rebirth of US space missions with the introduction of Commercial Crew and future programs to bring astronauts back into space – ending a nine-year gap dating back to the final Space Shuttle flight in 2011.

You now can see the worm prominently on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, as well as the astronaut uniforms.

NASA SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew-1 spacecraft
NASA meatball and worm logos on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. (Credit: NASA)

It’s highly unusual for any organization or company to rationalize a dual-branding approach. Here’s a rare example of adopting two different logos to great effect!

If you’re still curious, NASA has made available, for your reading pleasure, the original graphics standards manual for the worm logo.