Images of space

Today sees the formal launch of the UK Space Agency. The news has been reported this morning by the BBC and a few other UK media outlets, but it’s pretty low profile stuff.

Anyways, I’m not interrupting my work to write about the UK Space Agency. I did briefly mention the subject back in December, and asked then about the justification for a new bureaucratic body. For now I’m interested in the popular image of space, and one way of looking at this is to compare and contrast the official logos of a few of the world’s space agencies.


Let’s start with NASA, which has by far the biggest profile.

NASA’s emblem has a certain flair to it, but to me it seems a little dated, much like the organisation’s ethos. On the plus side the logo is instantly recognisable, easy on the eye, and not at all in-your-face. Maybe there is method in this dullness.

What strikes me is the conservatism of US scientists and engineers when it comes to typography, and the NASA logo is a case in point. I’ve become used to this conservatism with American and European science journals. The US periodicals tend to be rather fuddy duddy, while the latter can be a little over-designed.

European Space Agency

Next comes the European Space Agency (ESA), whose logo is a bit Space 1999. Now I quite like ESA’s corporate aesthetic, with its soft lines, lower case lettering and overall minimalism. The problem is that the logo is subdued, and, it could be argued, does little to help raise the media profile of the agency and its work.

UK Space Agency

So what do the Brits have to offer?

The UK may be a major contributor to ESA, but, going by the graphic which accompanies today’s BBC report, the UK Space Agency logo is a combination of NASA ripoff and English stiff upper lip.

At best the symbolism is of British bulldogs, Churchillian spirit, and the white heat of 1970s technology and now largely defunct manufacturing industry; at worst it resembles an illustration from a neo-fascist tract.

The Brits are not going to run with this one, are they?