For decades now, practically every NASA mission has had its own signature patch: a rounded emblem to symbolize the purpose of the agency’s flights into space. It’s a tradition that many others in aerospace have adopted, too, including the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), a nonprofit that oversees the National Laboratory on the International Space Station. Each year, CASIS releases a themed mission patch for the lab, and this year’s seal showcases a few familiar droids and spaceships from the Star Wars franchise.
The patch, made in collaboration with Lucasfilm, was designed by Doug Chiang, an Academy Award-winning designer who recently worked on Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Rogue One. Shaped like the Millennium Falcon, the patch showcases three familiar droids, BB-8, K-2SO, and Chopper, all standing on the horizon. Overhead is the silhouette of the International Space Station, which is lingering perilously close to the Death Star.
This new patch is meant to represent the hundreds of experiments done inside the ISS laboratory in the year 2017. It also continues CASIS’s burgeoning tradition of creating unique mission patches done in collaboration with other artists. Typically, NASA mission patches are designed by the engineering team or any astronauts involved in the launch, but CASIS has been outsourcing the design of its patches. Last year, the CASIS patch was created in collaboration with Marvel and featured Rocket and Groot staring up at the ISS. Past patches have also been designed by actor Seth Green and street artist Shepard Fairey, known in part for creating Barack Obama’s "Hope" poster.
The Star Wars theme was picked for this year’s patch to coincide with The Last Jedi, set to be released in December. But CASIS argues that Star Wars is an apt choice since it inspires many to go into space science. “This collaboration connects the scientific promise of the International Space Station to the scientific inspiration of the iconic Star Wars franchise,” Gregory Johnson, CASIS president and executive director, said in a statement. “Science has always been an essential element of the Star Wars franchise, and it is absolutely the basis of the ISS National Lab.” With the patch’s announcement, Lucasfilm is also announcing a 10-episode show called Science and Star Wars, which is all about the real science that inspires the technologies in the films.
A diverse variety of experiments are done in the ISS National Lab every year, ranging from genetic research to botany and pharmaceutical development. It’s open to practically anyone interested in doing research in microgravity, such as academic institutions, commercial companies, and nonprofit organizations.