There is something iconic about mission patches. For whatever reason, they resonate with everyone. It doesn’t matter if you are a space enthusiast or someone who wouldn’t know a rocket from the space station. Mission patches are unique items that seem to get everyone excited to talk about space.
As many who follow the ISS National Lab know, instead of developing traditional mission patches for all missions that resupply the International Space Station National Lab, we have gone a different route. Each year, the ISS National Lab works with one partner or entity to develop a mission patch that represents all ISS National Lab investigations during the course of a calendar year.
Over the years, some of the more recognizable entertainment brands and figures have worked with the ISS National Lab on the development of these patches: from Marvel and Lucasfilm to street artist Shepard Fairey, actor and space enthusiast Seth Green, PGA golfer Rickie Fowler and Cobra Puma Golf, and this year’s mission patch—designed by iconic filmmaker Ridley Scott.
So, invariably, I am asked three questions by most people once they get a hold of a the ISS National Lab mission patch:
- This is so cool! How did the ISS National Lab come up with this idea?
- How were you able to get some of these teams to create these patches for you?
- Can I have a couple extra for my friends and family???
The first question is pretty simple: At the ISS National Lab, our role as manager of the ISS National Lab is to spark an interest in research on the orbiting platform, forge collaborations with researchers, and educate the general community about the space station. There is also something to be said about blending pop culture with space. It is something that clearly works in Hollywood, so why not attempt to create our own ties to that community? And most importantly, because it’s fun!
Partnerships come about in a variety of ways. Some were by happenstance. Some were from sending an email or making a phone call. Some were through friends of friends. The one common thing I have noticed in each and every mission patch we have developed is that the teams involved get super excited.
With our first ever mission patch from acclaimed street artist Shepard Fairey, I must have seen about 50 versions before we went with this look. The Lucasfilm team, led by Academy Award winning creative lead Doug Chiang, equally sent 30 to 40 different versions of the mission patch, including different drones, vehicles, and shape configurations. But that’s what makes these patches fun and interesting! Each one carries a unique story on how it came to be.
When we first worked with Marvel on a mission patch featuring its characters, we eventually decided on Rocket and Groot. Why? Because we also wanted to find characters that we could create an education contest around that had drastically different physical and mental characteristics. The next thing you know, we put out an education contest that reached thousands of students across the country.
While we are at it, how about a little information on the Ridley Scott mission patch that was announced earlier this week? So why Ridley? Well, you could argue he is the most instrumental science fiction filmmaker of the last 40 years. His love for space was recently put on display in the cinematic epic, The Martian, and his powerful voice and stature within the science fiction community can help to bring visibility to station from an audience that typically enjoys hearing about exploration. It was a perfect fit, and we are incredibly fortunate to partner with an iconic figure like Ridley Scott. I can’t wait to share with folks what we have in store for 2019!
But do you want to know the best part about the mission patch program we have created at the ISS National Lab? The look on people’s faces when you give them a patch and they learn the story behind these four-inch pieces of art. Like when you’re on a plane and you spend an hour educating someone about the space station all because they saw a mission patch sticker on your laptop and got curious. Or when you give a young student a Lucasfilm mission patch at the coffee shop because they were wearing a Star Wars T-shirt, and it turns into a discussion on the future of space. The look on people’s faces shows they are receiving something that means more than just a patch.
Sure, it is cool to give something away that was created by Ridley Scott, who created some of the more prominent science fiction movies of our time—but when people learn about the passion someone like Ridley has for station and space, well, it’s like a ripple effect. It spreads. That’s what we are trying to create at the ISS National Lab. Excitement for the present, which breeds enthusiasm for the future.
So there you have it. That’s the the ISS National Lab mission patch story! Now, who wants a fresh-off-the-press Ridley Scott patch?