This site is dedicated to the artists who did the artwork for the patches depicted on this site, including
Jean Beaulieu (Apollo 14)
William Bradley (Gemini 7 and Apollo 8)
James Cooper (Apollo 11)
Victor Craft (Apollo 12)
Jerry Elmore (Apollo 15)
Frank Kelly Freas (Skylab 1)
Barbara Matelski (Apollo 16 and Skylab 3)
Robert McCall (Apollo 17)
Jean Pinataro (Apollo-Soyuz)
Allen Stevens (Apollo 1, 7, 9 and 10)
Anthony Tharenos (Gemini 12)
Norman Tiller (Apollo 13)
While this site includes a page that gives a brief biographical sketch of many the artists whose work directly or indirectly resulted in the patches documented here, there are still many who are virtually unknown — like thousands and thousands of men and women whose work resulted in the astounding voyages of discovery that constituted the “Golden Age” of spaceflight — and so I have no information about them beyond their names — and in some cases not even that. Thank you all.
If you have any interest in manned spaceflight, you are almost certainly familiar with the “crew patches” that are used to identify each mission. These days, it’s easy to purchase a fine embroidered patch — sometimes months before the mission gets off the ground. There are few variations and virtually no artistic reinterpretation. But this was not always the case.
While patches have been in use since Gemini 4, it is difficult to find embroidered reproductions of the Gemini or early Apollo patches that actually look like the patches the astronauts used. The actual embroidered patches used by the astronauts were usually around 4″ in size; only souvenir patches were created in the smaller 3″ size (3″ patches are not treated in these pages). Even so, most 4″ patches for flights prior to Apollo 11 were not particularly faithful to the actual patch design (beginning with Apollo 11 most of the 4″ embroidered patches were much more faithful to the design). While it is not difficult to track down the original artwork for these patches (they are available at NASA press image archives on the web), the poorly-executed embroidered versions are so pervasive that images of them are used more than the original artwork. The two published books on space patches — Lattimer’s All We Did Was Fly to the Moon and Kaplan & Muniz’ Space Patches — use the poorly executed embroidered patches in their illustrations. Even NASA web sites that purport to catalog early patch designs often use these poor representations (e.g., see the NASA headquarters Apollo patches page). They have even served as the basis for digital reductions of the patches.
Example of Image Deterioration
This is a pity, because the original designs are virtually always far more attractive. And if embroidered patches are desired, better embroidered versions can be found, with a little work
What this site strives to do is to present the variety of designs of pre-shuttle patches, with an emphasis on the original artwork, in the hope of making at least a small dent in the pervasiveness of what I consider “ugly” patch images on the web and in print. Along the way, you may find some interesting stories about these patches and their derivation.
I was 12 years old when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. I’d been avidly following the space program since late in the Gemini project. I devoured everything I could find on the subject of space flight. By the time of the last Apollo launch (the Apollo-Soyuz flight in 1975) I had amassed quite a collection of “stuff” relating to space missions. Subsequent upheavals in my life resulted in the dispersion of the bulk of this material. One of the few things I preserved was my prized collection of Apollo patches that I’d collected at the time of the flights. I intentionally did not have any patches for missions prior to Apollo 11, because I felt that the patches that were available simply didn’t look like the actual patches, and were for the most part not even attractive.
With the advent of the Internet, I found that not only could I easily collect electronic versions of the original designs, but that there actually were better embroidered patches, and they were out there to be had. Since then I’ve substantially enhanced my collection of patches through eBay auctions, and through a very few specialized dealers. More information on acquiring patches can be found on the Collecting and Resources pages.
If you’d like to contact me about any aspect of space patches, and especially if you have any comments about this site, please feel free send me feedback. I’d love to hear any additional information you might have about the subject.