NASA brings back retro 'worm' logo for upcoming Artemis 2 moon mission (photos)

two views of a person on a crane painting the letters of 'nasa' on the side of a rocket, inside a warehouse
The NASA "worm" logo being painted on side of an Artemis 2 solid rocket booster, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on Jan. 30, 2024. (Image credit: NASA/Glenn Benson)

The worm is going to the moon.

Artemis 2, the first human moon mission in 50 years, will carry the iconic NASA "worm" logo upon the solid rocket boosters helping to heft the astronauts into space, agency officials stated on Thursday (Feb. 16).

"That's no earthworm you see on SLS! The NASA worm logo is inching into place on our boosters," NASA's official account for the Space Launch System stated on X, formerly Twitter, on Thursday. Each letter of the worm is nearly 7 feet (2 meters) high and the logo is roughly 25 feet (7.5 meters) from end to end.

Related: Astronauts won't walk on the moon until 2026 after NASA delays next 2 Artemis missions

The curvy NASA lettering was also recently painted in a smaller form on the Orion spacecraft that will bear the four astronauts on the round-the-moon mission no earlier than September 2025 during the first crewed excursion for the spacecraft.

The NASA worm logo, as well as the European Space Agency's logo, on the Artemis 2 Orion spacecraft after installation on Jan. 28, 2024 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Image credit: NASA/Rad Sinyak)

The worm logo was first used in 1975 after being designed by Danne & Blackburn, a New York-based studio who recreated the NASA wording under the U.S. Federal Design Improvement Program, according to Design Week.

The NASA worm logo pasted on the Artemis 2 solid rocket boosters at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Jan. 30, 2024. (Image credit: NASA/Glenn Benson)

Worms started crawling their way into space during the joint U.S. and Russian Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975, continuing to inch their way into orbit during the space shuttle and Hubble Space Telescope launching era.

The Orion spacecraft for Artemis 2, including the NASA worm logo, at the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Image credit: NASA/Rad Sinyak)

In 1992, however, then NASA-administrator Dan Goldin retired the worm logo in favor of a "meatball" version to invoke the "glory days" of Apollo, according to agency materials. But the worm made a comeback for limited mission opportunities in 2020, starting with the first SpaceX mission with astronauts on board, under the approval of then-administrator Jim Bridenstine.

"I grew up with the worm as the logo of NASA. It is kind of personal to me," Bridenstine told partner collectSPACE in 2020. "This is NASA."

Work on the Artemis 2 hardware at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, as well as other locations, continues. The mission was recently delayed nine months to September 2025 due to several technical issues. Delayed too was Artemis 3, now slated for 2026 instead of 2025.

"It takes courage to make the right decision," Artemis 2 astronaut Jeremy Hansen, a mission specialist with the Canadian Space Agency, told in exclusive interview this month. "In this case," he added, "this one was very clearly the right decision. There are concrete things that we know we will use this time for."

The mission includes NASA commander Reid Wiseman, NASA pilot Victor Glover (who will become the first Black person to leave low Earth orbit, or LEO), NASA mission specialist Christina Koch (the first woman to go beyond LEO) and Hansen (the first non-American). 

NASA, Canada and more than 30 other countries have signed up for a set of peaceful space exploration norms under the U.S.-led Artemis Accords. A subset of those countries, like Canada and certain members of the European Space Agency, have committed also to contributing hardware for the Artemis program's moon aims.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: