By Phil Hecken, with Marc Mayntz
50 years ago today, humankind accomplished what was once thought impossible: putting a man on the moon and safely returning him home (actually — it was two men who walked on the moon), with the Apollo Program set in motion years earlier by President John F. Kennedy. Most of us know of this event, even if we weren’t alive for it (I was three and a half when the landing happened, so, alas, I have no memory of it — I do remember subsequent moon landings, but not the first). In fact, we actually successfully landed on the moon six different times, and I can remember watching latter ones with my family as we sat in front of a 19″ black and white television. Growing up, I thought we’d been going to the moon for my entire life (when in reality it was a very small 3+ year period) and never understood why we didn’t go back. Ahh, to be that young and naive again. But there were many Apollo missions, and all of them had special patches (as did other space programs). Today, reader Marc Mayntz had a fantastic “off-uni” piece for us as he takes a look back at the patches worn by the Astronauts of the Apollo Program. It’s absolutely fantastic.
Apollo Mission Patches
By Marc Mayntz
July 20, 1969 is a milestone in the history of humanity. At 10:56 EDT, Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on the surface of another astronomical body. Fifty years later, the Apollo Program and the 6 lunar landings stand unsurpassed in their technical complexity, ingenuity, and daring.
In the Universe of the “uni-verse,” Apollo was notable for the patches associated with each mission. The patches were originally a sign of crew camaraderie during the Gemini program, a way of memorializing and personalizing the mission at hand. Today, mission patches (especially authentic ones from support personnel) are treasured souvenirs and collectibles amongst space fans.
With the whole world watching, it was important for each patch to be meaningful and symbolic on a very small canvas, but not be so flamboyant as to be distracting. What resulted was a collection of images that expressed hope, purpose, and humanity in several different ways.
A lot of the information comes from NASA’s Human Space Flight Mission Patch Handbook, which is a handy resource for all 168 mission patches from the unofficial Mercury ones through the Space Shuttle missions. The images are mainly from NASA’s historical archives and old Associated Press photos.
Apollo 1 (27 January 1967)
Designer: Allen Stevens, North American Aviation
The “shakedown” flight of the new Apollo capsule ended in tragedy when a fire broke out and suffocated Astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee. The patch is the first mission patch to explicitly use the American Flag in any way. The Moon is in the background, noting it as the ultimate goal of the program. As a result of “The Fire,” this is the only mission patch that was actually embroidered. All other patches were silkscreened onto the crew’s fire-resistant clothing.
Apollo 7 (11-22 October 1968)
Designer: Allen Stevens, North American Aviation
Despite NASA’s reputation for procedure and conformity, there was no regulation choosing Arabic or Roman numerals for flights. This flight tested the new designs that were implemented in the wake of Apollo 1, represented by the new command and service modules orbiting the Earth. The story of the rocket flame trailing behind the rocket as representing Apollo 1 is apocryphal with no basis in fact. The astronauts’ names are prominently displayed as well as the Western Hemisphere of the Earth.
Apollo 8 (21-27 December 1968)
Designers: Jim Lovell, Astronaut/Bill Bradley, Artist/Gene Rickman, Artist
Personally, I think this is the best mission patch of the 12, with so much information packed into one space. The blue field matches the silhouette of the command module as well as vaguely forming an “A.” The red “8” not only features the astronauts’ names but also shows the actual flight path of the capsule.
For me, the neatest detail is the Earth and Moon are shown together, but as three dimensional bodies and astronomically accurate since both are depicted in the same phase as they would appear to an observer in space. In fact, the Galileo spacecraft did exactly that on 16 December 1992 on its way to Jupiter, taking a picture of the Earth and Moon together.
Apollo 9 (3-13 March 1969)
Designer: Allen Stevens, North American Aviation
This is the first patch to feature three spacecraft at once (The Saturn V rocket, the Command module “Gumdrop”, and the Lunar Module “Spider”). Notice how the interior of the “D” on mission commander Jim McDivitt’s name is red and not blue? NASA denoted every pre-landing mission with a letter. The “B” mission would only occur if the “A” mission was a success, and so on. Apollo 9 was the first test of the lunar lander–the “D” mission. This was the only lunar lander not to leave Earth orbit, but its success paved the way for the “E” mission to follow.
Apollo 10 (18-26 May 1969)
Designers: Gene Cernan, Astronaut/John Young, Astronaut/Allen Stevens, North American Aviation
The dominant Roman Numeral X pulls double duty, not only supplying the mission number, but also the metaphorical “X marking the spot” on the surface of the Moon. The perspective has completely reversed from Apollo 1-now Earth is in the background. This is the dress rehearsal for the landing, showing the lunar lander “Snoopy” (noticeably without legs showing no landing was attempted) separated from the command module “Charlie Brown.”
Apollo 11 (16-24 July 1969, Moon landing 20 July 1969)
Designers: Jim Lovell, Astronaut/Mike Collins, Astronaut
Of course, this is by far the most famous mission and most recognizable Apollo mission patch. The astronauts knew that this symbol would be heavily scrutinized and made sure everything was aesthetically perfect. First, this is one of only 4 mission patches in NASA history with no astronaut names whatsoever. This was done deliberately by the astronauts as to represent all the people who worked to reach the Moon and, in a larger respect, all of humanity. The bald eagle represents the lunar lander (“The Eagle has landed.”) as well as a subtle acknowledgement that the United States accomplished the feat. The Earth looks on in the background, again representing the human race. The olive branch along with the blue circle encompassing the scene represents the peaceful exploration of the Moon while the gold lettering and outside circle represent the completion of the ultimate goal set by President Kennedy.
Apollo 12 (14-24 November 1969, Moon landing 19 November 1969)
Designer: Victor Craft, Artist
A rocket-powered Yankee Clipper ship? There could be nothing less for the all-Navy crew (and the name of the command module). The Ocean of Storms on the lunar surface is accurately represented below and the destination of the Lunar Module Intrepid. The four prominent stars represent the three astronauts named on the patch as well as Astronaut Clifton Williams, who was originally scheduled to be the Lunar Module Pilot of the mission but died in a plane crash two years earlier.
Apollo 13 (11-17 April 1970, Moon landing aborted)
Designer: Lumen Winter, Artist/Norman Tiller, Artist
This was the first patch to acknowledge the mythological roots of the program’s name. Apollo, the Sun God, is represented here as a blazing sun pulled by three horses (the astronauts). Instead of the names Lovell, Swigert, and Haise, the Latin phrase “Ex Luna, Scientia” which means “From the Moon, Knowledge.” This patch is probably the boldest patch design of the 12. Unfortunately, the mission itself did not meet its expected goals, as the spacecraft was crippled by an explosion. The “Successful Failure” was made into the 1995 blockbuster film “Apollo 13.”
Apollo 14 (31 January-9 February 1971, Moon landing 5 February 1971)
Designer: Jean Bealieu, Artist
By the time Apollo 14 lifted off to accomplish Apollo 13’s mission, NASA had cut the last three missions to the Moon for political and budgetary reasons. Commanded by Alan Shepard (the first American in space and Chief of the Astronaut Office), the mission patch uses the astronaut lapel pin to represent the astronauts who were qualified, but would not now be allowed, to make the trip to the Moon. A silver lapel pin is given to astronauts upon their acceptance into the Astronaut Corps; astronauts who fly in space are given a gold one as pictured in the mission patch.
Apollo 15 (26 July-7 August 1971, Moon landing 30 July 1971)
Designers: Emilio Pucci, Designer/Jerry Elmore, Artist
I admit that this is my least favorite design. First, it is very plain. It hits the required elements (moon surface, red, white, and blue, three “birds” flying, names, mission number) but not much else. The only thing of real note is the hidden “XV” on the lunar surface (between the red left wing and right blue wing of the “birds”). Most of all this is a missed opportunity because Apollo 15 was the debut of the Lunar Rover – the ultimate dune buggy, how could that NOT be on the patch? Oh well.
Apollo 16 (16-27 April 1972, Moon landing 20 April 1972)
Designers: John Young, Astronaut/Ken Mattingly, Astronaut/Charlie Duke, Astronaut/Barbara Matelski, NASA Artist
The Apollo 16 crew wanted their mission patch to represent patriotism, teamwork and the Moon, and the finished product certainly hits all those criteria. The patriotic iconography is unmistakable with the eagle perched on the red, white, and blue shield. The gold wings are taken from the NASA seal to represent the agency working together to make the mission happen, and all of this is in the foreground above the lunar surface. Like their predecessor, the mission number is denoted two ways with the 16 stars surrounding the roundel.
Apollo 17 (7-19 December 1972, Moon landing 11 December 1972)
Designers: Gene Cernan, Astronaut/Ronald Evans, Astronaut/Harrison Schmitt, Astronaut Geologist/Robert McCall, Artist
The final Moon landing featured probably the most complex mission patch of the entire program, full of symbolism. Starting with Apollo himself, he is joined by a futuristically rendered American eagle (with 3 stars representing the crew). The previous lunar landings are represented by the eagle’s wing barely touching the Moon’s surface in the top of the insignia. More significantly is how Apollo and the eagle are looking at Saturn and a galaxy, indicating the future direction of human spaceflight towards the other planets and the stars.
This closes a remarkable chapter in human history, when we actively sent people to another world. It is planned that by 2024 we will return people to the Moon with the Artemis (Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo) program using the new Space Launch System. Along with curiosity and bravery, those astronauts will hopefully be as creative with their mission patches as their predecessors half a century previously to add to this wonderful collection.
Thanks Marc! Great job on this. OK you uni/space geeks, this one’s for you! Please thank Marc for his efforts and if you have any moon landing stories, today’s the day to share them in the comments below!
After being dormant for a while, the Uni Tweaks/Concepts have returned!
I hope you guys like this feature and will want to continue to submit your concepts and tweaks to me. If you do, Shoot me an E-mail (Phil (dot) Hecken (at) gmail (dot) com).
I received the following e-mail from reader Brian Forosisky, who has a Pittsburgh NBA concept:
Been toying around with a Pittsburgh NBA team – Always wanted to see what that would look like. Very Pittsburgh – No team mascot, just The Burgh / City of Bridges Basketball. Gotta go black and gold, right? Side panels incorporate the blue / white checkered pattern from the City of Pittsburgh coat of arms.
Apologies to Mavs fans – We got Luka.
Thanks Brian. OK readers (and concepters). If you have some tweaks or concepts, shoot ’em my way with a brief description of your creation and I’ll run ’em here.
from the scoreboard
The game has returned! At least for a trial basis, but I got a lot of positive response to its return, so we’ll see how long we keep this one going.
Today’s scoreboard comes from reader Thomas J. Brennan.
The premise of the game (GTGFTS) is simple: I’ll post a scoreboard and you guys simply identify the game depicted. In the past, I don’t know if I’ve ever completely stumped you (some are easier than others).
Tom provided a detailed explanation of this game, and it could be tricky for you guys to identify exactly (if for some reason you don’t get it, I’ll post his explanation at the end of the day). But I’ve got confidence in you…
Here’s the Scoreboard. In the comments below, try to identify the game (date & location, as well as final score). If anything noteworthy occurred during the game, please add that in (and if you were AT the game, well bonus points for you!):
If you guys like this, and want to continue this as a weekly feature, let me know in the comments below. You’re welcome to send me any scoreboard photos (with answers please), and I’ll keep running them.
And now a few words from Paul
Hi there. In case you missed it on Friday, I had some big announcements:
• First, the results of our Bengals-redesign challenge are now available for your enjoyment.
• Second, we are taking pre-orders on a new uni-versary item — a Uni Watch 20th-anniversary commemorative dinner plate (because 20 years is traditionally the “China anniversary”). Full details here.
• And last but not least, my free agency will soon come to an end, because next month I’ll be signing on as a staff writer for Sports Illustrated. Full details here.
Okay, handing the baton back to Phil now. Have a great weekend!
By Anthony Emerson
Baseball News: The Pirates are throwing it back tonight in honor of the ’79 World Series (from Seunghoon Han). … The Yankee Stadium grounds crew installed the wrong base for last night’s game. Check the date, guys! (from Steve Tilders). … Oh man, check out the unis in this 1982 footage of the Cracker Jack Old Timers Baseball Classic. It appears the National Leaguers are wearing totally blank grey jerseys with blue “N” caps, while the American Leaugers are wearing what appear to be Reds-inspired unis with “American” across the front. … A lot was made about Phillies OF Bryce Harper wearing a Philly Phanatic headband during Thursday night’s game. But it turns out he was wearing it upside down (great spot by Gabriel Billig). … The Dodgers will reveal the 2020 All-Star Game logo on Tuesday (from Mike Chamernik). … Check out the T-shirts the A’s have unveiled for this year’s Heritage Night! Love the detail of putting the apostrophe “ס” placed to the left of the “א,” matching Hebrew’s right-to-left writing system (from Alex Graber). … The Rockies’ official game notes page breaks down the team’s record by jersey (from Matt Porges). … Also posted in the soccer section: the Giants and Portuguese side Benfica gifted each other jerseys (from @mikeDfromCT). … In the newest edition of Professional Baseball Spirits, the official video game of NPB, you can double c-guard your character’s face (from Jeremy Brahm). … A new independent baseball league, the Western Association of Professional Baseball, has unveiled their league logos (from John Cerone).
College/High School Football News: New unis for Tennessee Tech (from Chad Fields). … Iowa State will add helmet decals of each player’s home state flag above the American flag decal (from Phillip Santos). … Here’s our first look at the CFB150 patch on Purdue’s unis (from Jarrod Campbell).
Hockey News: Hard to believe the Gorton’s fisherman Islanders logo would be one that’d get stolen, but we’re through the looking glass with this print shop’s logo (from Daniel Carroll).
Soccer News: The biggest footballing news yesterday was UK betting company Paddy Power unveiling a fake Huddersfield shirt with a giant Paddy Power logo, and then Huddersfield revealing their real shirt, with no advertising at all. Turns out Paddy Power paid Huddersfield not to wear any advertiser logos as part of the ‘Save Our Shirt’ campaign (from many, many readers). … In a related item, here’s a Twitter thread with all 20 Premier League clubs’ primary kits without advertising. I yearn for a Chevy-less United kit (from multiple readers). … You can catch Josh Hinton‘s daily download from his Twitter page, which includes links to Arsenal’s leaked third kit and Atlético Madrid’s freshly released away kit. … New third kit for German side Werder Bremen (from Ed Żelaski). … Also from Ed: Italian side Udinese are going GFGS for their third kit. More of Ed’s contributions can be found on his Twitter page. … Crossposted from the baseball section: the Giants and Portuguese side Benfica gifted each other jerseys (from @mikeDfromCT). … New West Ham United Women signing Jacynta Galabadaarachchi has a Saltalamacchian NOB (from @VictoryCB and Mark Coale). … Blackburn Rovers’ new away kit has been released.
Grab Bag: Argentina’s Rugby World Cup kits have been released (from Tim Dunn). … The Premier Lacrosse League sent us some glamour shots of their All-Star Game unis, and they’re tie dye for some reason. … Here are the field volunteer uniforms and city volunteer uniforms for the Tokyo Olympics next year (from Jeremy Brahm). … An artist in Buffalo paints fields with graduating high school athletes’ high school logo and college logo for graduation parties. … When Phil sent me an email with the subject line “vintage sports cars,” I thought he had me confused for someone else. I don’t even drive! But it turns out he sent me some pics of vintage toy cars, officially licensed by sports teams. Now that is cool.