Eugene Cernan
Ronald Evans
Harrison “Jack” Schmitt


Robert McCall

Apollo 17

Eugene Cernan, commander of the Apollo 17 mission, commissioned eminent space artist Robert McCall to design the patch for his flight. McCall modeled his image of Apollo on the 7-foot marble sculpture on display in the Vatican Gallery in Rome. The most famous of the many Classical representations of the Greek god Apollo, it was discovered towards the end of the 15th century and regarded for centuries afterwards as one of the supreme masterpieces of world art. The statue is a marble copy from the Roman period of a Classical or Hellenistic Greek bronze. Leochares has been proposed as the sculptor of the lost original. In 1503 the newly-elected Pope, Julius II della Rovere, placed it in the internal courtyard of the Belvedere Palace.

The official NASA caption to the press release photo of the Apollo 17 patch reads:

The insignia is dominated by the image of Apollo, the Greek sun god. Suspended in space behind the head of Apollo is an American eagle of contemporary design, the red bars of the eagle’s wing represent the bars in the U.S. flag; the three white stars symbolize the three astronaut crewmen. The background is deep blue space and within it are the Moon, the planet Saturn and a spiral galaxy or nebula. The Moon is partially overlaid by the eagle’s wing suggesting that this is a celestial body that man has visited and in that sense conquered. The thrust of the eagle and the gaze of Apollo to the right and toward Saturn and the galaxy is meant to imply that man’s goals in space will someday include the planets and perhaps the stars. The colors of the emblem are red, white and blue, the colors of our flag; with the addition of gold, to symbolize the golden age of space flight that will begin with this Apollo 17 lunar landing. The Apollo image used in this emblem was the Apollo of Belvedere sculpture now in the Vatican Gallery in Rome. This emblem was designed by artist Robert T. McCall in collaboration with the astronauts.

Cernan later wrote his recollection of the patch:

... for a mission patch [we] turned our pen-scratched ideas and goals over to artist Robert T. McCall, who helped us come up with a wonderful design based on the theme of mankind, country and the future. The golden face of Apollo, Greek god of the Sun, was laid on top of a contemporary drawing of an American eagle. Red bars in the wings reflected our flag, and were topped by three white stars representing our crew. A deep blue background featured the Moon, Saturn and a spiral galaxy, with the eagle’s wing just touching the Moon to suggest that this celestial body had been visited by man. Apollo gazes to the right toward the galaxy to imply further exploration, with the eagle leading mankind into the future.

—Eugene Cernan, The Last Man on the Moon

The Apollo of Belvedere sculpture in the Vatican Gallery which was used as a model for the face of Apollo on the Apollo 17 patch.

NASA photo S72-49079

Beta cloth version of the Apollo 17 patch. It can be clearly seen here in the face of Apollo and in the space background, that the silk-screen process used for creating the beta cloth patches favored discrete rather than continuous tones.
87mm dia

AB Emblem embroidered Apollo 17 patch. Embroidery, like silk-screen, has a limited palette; but AB Emblem seems to have executed better in this case. Vintage patches have a white eagle shape; later versions [ap17-em2] have a light blue eagle shape. The lettering on this patch has the very slightest pink or purple cast.
103mm dia

Lion Brothers embroidered Apollo 17 patch. The grey border is disproportionately large here, as is the lettering. The face of Apollo is not as well executed as that on the AB Emblem version.
105mm dia

The Lion Brothers hallmark — the number “17” in a fold of cloth on Apollo’s shoulder.

This 4½″ patch is one specially commissioned by the Apollo 17 crew. There were about 150 of these made for each crewmember, with the crewmember’s intials sewn into the background between Apollo’s shoulder and the galaxy. The detail shows that this patch was one of Harrison Schmitt’s. A star, visible in the artwork but in neither of the other embroidered patches, further distinguishes this set of patches. The lettering has the same pinkish cast as the smaller AB Emblem version. Still in it’s original sealed plastic wrap, this patch bears a label on the back stating it was manufactured by AB Emblem.
115mm w × 116mm h

Some preliminary sketches by Robert McCall for the Apollo 17 patch. In an interview published in issue #21 of Outré magazine (not dated, but published in 2000), McCall states: “I’ve designed a bunch of mission emblems, gratis, including those for the Apollo 17 mission, and have been thrilled to do it. To see that on Gene Cernan’s and Jack Schmitt’s space suits when they were on the moon was such a privilege. By the way, Gene Cernan has all the sketches for his emblem — I gave them to him.” In an interview conducted for the JSC Oral History Project, McCall, recalls: “Jack Schmitt was the geologist astronaut on that mission, and he thought Stonehenge would be a wonderful image to include.”