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A Detailed Look At The Apollo Program Patches

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.

Here’s Marc…

• • • • •

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!

Uni Concepts & Tweaks

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:

Hey Phil!

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.


Brian Forosisky

• • •

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.

Guess The Game…

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!

The Ticker
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).

NBA News: Jazz G Nigel Williams-Goss will wear no. 0 (from Etienne Catalan). … Also from Etienne: Suns C Frank Kaminsky III will wear no. 8.

College/High School Hoops News: Miami of Ohio has a new court. Here’s a slick time lapse video of the old court being replaced by the new (from Tim Abel and @kparker9200).

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.

Comments (34)

    Two other pieces of Apollo 11 info:
    1. Astronaut Mike Collins, who designed the patch originally had the olive branch of peace in the eagle’s mouth; NASA asked that it be moved to the claws to seem less warlike.
    2. Collins also had APOLLO across the top and ELEVEN across the bottom; Neil Armstrong thought ELEVEN wouldn’t be readable by non-English speakers so it was changed to 11.

    Great piece Marc! Well timed and informative. It’s easy to forget a man was ever sent to the moon, but it’s completely captivating to revisit the story.

    But, technically, the picture would’ve been taken on 5/29, as the clock shows 1:19 AM, with the game having just been won by the Marlins in walk-off fashion. Not sure if there’s any other significance… the first extra-innings walk-off victory in franchise history had occurred on May 1 vs. Colorado; they had also lost 3 via walk-off by that point in the season.

    Regarding the Old Timers Baseball Classic uniforms, if you go about 20 seconds in when they are showing Ernie Banks at 3rd, you can see it shows (very faintly, mind you) NATIONAL on the front of his jersey. So they weren’t blank, just very difficult to read.

    Yeah, “NATIONAL” was outlined in white; really hard to see on the washed-out video.

    Hate to be a downer but, it was like a 185-foot home run; RFK was still configured for football. Still impressive for a septuagenarian, but I get the feeling everyone who comments thinks it went 340 feet.

    Great piece today! One of my all-time favorite non-sports entries. Great job, Marc!

    One quibble: NASA does not in fact have a “plan” to return to the moon by 2024 with Project Artemis. NASA has a goal to do so, and a newly announced project name and some slick graphics, but there’s no plan. There’s not even currently a plan to set a budget for the overall Artemis project, while Congress is doing preliminary work on budget items that will go into the year 2021. NASA doesn’t even have a definite plan for what lifting bodies and what spacecraft to use in Artemis, nor a plan for who will manufacture what. If we were going to return crews to the moon by 2024, the launch vehicles and spacecraft they will use would already be in deployment in test fights and in use for on-orbit training. As much as I’m a huge supporter of NASA’s current set of goals for crewed spaceflight, especially the moon base, Artemis and the 2024 timeline are vaporware. Artemis is not a “plan,” it’s an attractive PowerPoint slide deck. Don’t believe a word any politician or agency head says about crewed spaceflight until you see the full-project budget submitted to Congress.

    Poor NASA is at the mercy of whoever is in charge. I think they would be better getting out of manned spaceflight altogether and focusing their attention on unmanned missions to Europa, Ganymede and Enceladus where life could exist in their subsurface oceans.

    No wonder I never heard of Project Artemis until today. I like the idea, but yeah, let’s see it in practice.

    Two of my earliest memories are watching the Apollo missions and football. I have a thing for helmets. In fact, I geeked out way more for Apollo (and retroactively, Mercury and Gemini) than I did for sports. I collected patches from all the programs and still have quite a few. For Apollo I have 7, 9 (my favorite…it’s going on one of my caps soon), 11, 14 and 15.

    Didn’t know why the D in Apollo 9 was red and didn’t know about the hidden XV. Thanks for pointing those out and for the overall great job!

    For Mercury I have Shepard’s, and for Gemini I have XII (Aldrin and Lovell).

    I always thought it would be cool to make a patch for when we go on a family trip. I should revisit that idea next time we go somewhere.

    1 thanks continuing the Guess The Scoreboard. Love going down those rabbit holes!

    Florida Marlins 5, Houston Astros 4 (12 innings)
    Regular Season Game 46
    Played on Friday, May 28, 1993 (N) at Joe Robbie Stadium

    2 love that paddy power link for un-sponsoring a kit. That is MUST SEE TV for every uniwatcher! I dont even care for soccer and found it to be brilliant as well as cleverly done.

    3 congrats to paul on landing the SI gig!

    That’s not an apostrophe on the A’s Heritage Night tee shirt. That’s the Hebrew letter yud which is similar to the letter y in the English alphabet.

    While typographically it is a yud, because of its relative size, it appears to be intended to act as an apostrophe in the same font. My quibble is that an English apostrophe should be horizontally reversed from the way it is displayed on that shirt to be aligned with the reading direction. With that correction, they’d avoid the confusion of it being a letter or punctuation.

    I think it is both. It is a yud, acting as an apostrophe.
    Plus, the last letter (on the left) is a samech (not an ‘o’, as appeared in the Ticker). That letter makes the S sound, so I thought it was accurately rendered!

    Miss the old Teal Monster! Amazing the Marlins won’t embrace what makes them unique ! Bring that wall back!!! And install Teal Seats!

    My mom worked at NASA before I was born, sometime in the early 90’s, and I think she has a few patches. Unfortunately I can’t remember what they’re for, or even where they are. I do remember in my childhood spending hours just looking at them, thinking they were the coolest things ever, and after today’s article, I still think NASA patches are the coolest things ever. Thanks for posting.

    As far as I’m aware, 1979 had the first color-vs-color World Series games, as the Orioles wore their orange alts at least twice.


    The scoreboard was a little confusing, but the needed details (5-4 in 12 innings) are on the electronic scoreboard above.

    When I was 11 years old I spent the summer of ‘69 with my mom’s family in Ireland. I took a lot of good natured ribbing all summer for being a “Yank” but was never prouder to be an American than when watching the moon landing on the BBC. On a side note, I also remember my dad sending me the standings and box scores clippings from the Daily News in his weekly letters.

    re: new court for Miami (OH)

    Since the NCAA moved the men’s 3-point line back, but not the women’s, is every team going to have to get a new court this year? I really disliked watching games with two 3-point lines, but that’s where we’re headed again. Here’s hoping the NCAA women’s committee moves the line back as well, which they were reportedly considering.

    I agree. I will definitely watch a lot less college basketball this season because of the two three-point lines. So frustrating!

    Even though it took 4:02 to play, game still must’ve had a lengthy delay as the time was 1:19am when the winning run scored

    Aaron Judge went high-cuffed in the middle of last night’s game, in an apparent attempt to get the umpire to raise his strike zone. link

    The thing about today’s scoreboard game is the big teal hand-operated board shows the eleventh and twelve innings in the manner old box scoreboards would do: remove the first ten inning numbers and continue with the eleventh inning in the first inning position. And so on…

    But the photographer may have caught the moment between when the operator put up the “1” for the bottom of the twelve and then (I assume) changed the “4” to a “5” under Runs and the “11” to a “12” under Hits! The electronic scoreboard above is up-to-the-second, but seeing it’s 1:19 am there’s probably only one person working the big teal board. And that person was likely walking to the R-H-E side of the scoreboard to update those numbers when the photo was taken!

    (Or maybe they just left it and clocked out!)

    I took this photo- the attendance was 37,000 but there weren’t many of us left by the end.
    Correct that they didn’t change the manual score-I’m not sure if they ever did but I noticed that there were several games still going on the West Coast after 1am ET. A few other fun facts:
    – the first Marlins game to be delayed by rain, almost 2 months into the season
    – during the last rain delay, the video scoreboard showed Late Night with David Letterman.
    – Three future HOFers in this game, Biggio and Bagwell for Houston and rookie Trevor Hoffman for Florida, a month before the trade to SD for Gary Sheffield.

    Richard was on a roll but I refreshed a few times and didn’t see him post the Cancelled Apollo 20 Patch, so here’s a link: link

    Hmmm…maybe the Apollo 20 comments went to purgatory awaiting moderator approval…Richard may have posted it because when I submitted my comment for it it hasn’t shown.

    Nice write-up. Yet, to throw kudos to Navy without acknowledging the massive impact of Purdue leaves much to be desired.

    Cernan, Chaffee, Grissom, Armstrong…just to name a few of the 25 astronauts from Purdue.

    Why schools like UCF are stretching it with their ‘space’ promo football uniforms. I think they’ve had 3 astronauts in space.

    There are even more variations of the same patches, depending on what is considered the official patch. AB Emblems was and is the official supplier to NASA but some of the crews used versions made by Lion Brothers, Texas Embroidery just to name a few.

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