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

Space logo Space 12/10/2022 Andrew Jones
null © NASA/Joel Kowsky null

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

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"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.

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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