May 1 (UPI) -- NASA will tap into nostalgia, and some controversy, by resurrecting its red so-called worm logo in limited fashion for the agency's return to human spaceflight planned for May 27.
The space agency said the logo, which was retired in 1995, is a "retro, modern design" that will help capture "the excitement of a new, modern era of human spaceflight." The worm logo may be used occasionally on other missions, but the agency hasn't changed its official logo.
Workers painted the worm logo on the side of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that is to carry astronauts from Florida to the International Space Station. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced that it would be used again, and indicated his support for it.
"I grew up inspired by NASA missions during the era of the NASA worm," Bridenstine said on Twitter.
NASA used the worm logo from 1975 to 1992, so people who were children during that era might remember it fondly, NASA chief historian Bill Barry said.
Before and after that, NASA has used what it calls the "meatball" logo -- a blue sphere with a red chevron and white circle that represents a spacecraft in orbit.
The worm logo created backlash among NASA employees when it was introduced in 1975, just a few years after the last Apollo moon landing, Barry said. He said NASA's rollout of the worm logo was abrupt and caused hurt feelings.
"Most NASA employees learned about the worm logo when new letterhead and business cards arrived -- at the same time the agency was told to shift away from pure space exploration and toward other scientific endeavors," Barry said.
The worm logo became iconic, anyway, as NASA launched the first space shuttle missions in 1981, he said.
"The neat thing about it is how deeply embedded in American culture it was," said Richard Danne, the designer who created the worm logo. Part of his assignment was to simplify the logo to make it easier for printing in the 1970s. The worm logo uses only one color and easily fits on the side of a rocket.
"We wanted simplicity, sophistication and a progressive look to unify NASA's publications with an innovative and technological appeal," Danne said. "It's exhilarating now to see it come back."
Many still have no love for the worm, though, said Charlie Mars, a retired NASA program manager who worked at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Mars now is chairman of the board at the American Space Museum and Walk of Fame in nearby Titusville.
"I think it's a bad idea to bring it back," Mars said. "When they came by and said, we're gonna get rid of the meatball, that was the symbol that meant everything I had worked for."