Meatball mishap: SpaceX Crew-5 astronaut launch marked by distorted NASA logo

NASA's iconic meatball logo appeared a bit stretched out on the side of the Crew-5 mission's SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
NASA's iconic meatball logo appeared a bit stretched out on the side of the Crew-5 mission's SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. (Image credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

With crewed launches, Starlink missions, reusing rockets and attempting to get Starship ready for launch, SpaceX can be forgiven for feeling a bit stretched. So too was the NASA meatball logo on SpaceX's recent Crew-5 launch to the ISS, eagle-eyed observers discovered. 

The historic mission launched successfully on Oct. 5 and saw a Russian launched to orbit with SpaceX for the first time, despite severe geopolitical tensions in the wake of the ongong Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Yet the rocket sitting on the pad drew attention for other reasons too. NASA's iconic round red, white and blue insignia, nicknamed the "meatball," appeared to be oddly out of proportion and distorted on the side of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that launched Crew-5 to the International Space Station (ISS). Naturally, the internet jumped at the opportunity to poke fun at it.

Related: SpaceX astronaut missions for NASA: Crew-5 live updates

"Wait … what … what happened to Crew-5's meatball?" tweeted Florida Today space reporter Emre Kelly, noted Creative Bloq.

Creative Bloq picked up a flurry of tweets on the matter, with users poking fun at the apparently hand-painted NASA logo which, unlike the launch itself, seemed to have veered off course.

The "meatball" logo first appeared in 1959 and served as NASA's official logo until 1975 when the red "worm" became NASA's emblem. According to the agency, the logo's overall round shape represents a planet, while the stars obviously represent space. Meanwhile, the red v-shaped wing design represents aeronautics, and the circular orbit around the agency's name is meant to stand for space travel.

NASA's official meatball insignia was designed by James Modarelli in 1959. (Image credit: NASA)

Perhaps the Crew-5 logo was a subtle nod to the fact our planet is an oblate spheroid, slightly flattened at the poles due to Earth's rotation, but likely not. It's unknown what caused the logo to appear so out of sorts.

It's not the only recent space-related logo fiasco, however, as a flying saucer-shape turned up on a National Intelligence Manager for Aviation logo. (That logo has since been taken down, and a spokesperson there stated that a staffer had "erroneously posted an unofficial and incorrect logo.")

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Andrew Jones
Contributing Writer

Andrew is a freelance space journalist with a focus on reporting on China's rapidly growing space sector. He began writing for in 2019 and writes for SpaceNews, IEEE Spectrum, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, New Scientist and others. Andrew first caught the space bug when, as a youngster, he saw Voyager images of other worlds in our solar system for the first time. Away from space, Andrew enjoys trail running in the forests of Finland. You can follow him on Twitter @AJ_FI.