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Artist adds motion to NASA's iconic Apollo moon mission patches



Artist Neil Smith's 'Apollo Mission Patches' video adds motion to NASA's historic moon landing program emblems. (neilfsmith)
April 6, 2015

— The iconic mission patches for the Apollo moon landings have come to life in a new clip created by a professional animator.

Cincinnati-based artist Neil Smith revealed his take on the historic NASA emblems in an animated short he published on YouTube and Vimeo on Thursday (April 2).

"I have always thought it would be cool to animate all the mission patches from NASA's manned moon missions," Smith wrote in his video's description.

The 2-minute, 47-second clip opens with the blackness of space but transitions quickly to reveal the moon, the Earth and a large "A" formed in part by a flight trajectory coming together to create NASA's official Apollo program logo.

Music, uncredited but perhaps composed and recorded by Smith, who is also an instrumental electronic music artist, accompanies the animation before mixing in archival audio of President John F. Kennedy and the Apollo astronauts.


Click here to enlarge and watch in a pop-up window. (neilfsmith)

"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth," JFK is heard stating from his historic 1961 address before Congress, as the next patch begins to take shape.

Smith's animation includes all of the Apollo crew insignias, starting with the emblem of the fallen Apollo 1 astronauts, who tragically died in a 1967 fire on the launch pad. Each patch takes motion in the video as its symbols and icons merge to form the final familiar shape of the artwork.

For some of the Apollo patches, Smith directly adapts the original art. For others though, he has added imagery that eventually helps to shape the patch.

Smith's Apollo 8 clip, for example, begins with a 3D render of the silver-skinned command module the crew first flew around the moon, before it fades to solid blue to become the background of the patch. For Apollo 11, the first moon landing mission, the "Eagle" lunar module is shown on the moon's surface until the rest of the insignia is in place. It then is replaced by the bird that was central to the design worn by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.

A number of Smith's animated patches continue in motion even after they are assembled. Smith's clip for the Apollo 13 mission, which marks its 45th anniversary this month, features the patch's three golden steeds continuing in their gallop toward the moon to great effect.


In Neil Smith's animated version of the Apollo 11 patch, the Eagle lunar module appears before the iconic emblem's bird. (neilfsmith)

The video concludes with the emblem for the 1972 Apollo 17 mission before fading to black and featuring one final animation of the NASA logo.

Smith created the Apollo mission patches animations as a learning exercise.

"When looking for a short project to do while teaching myself a bit more about the Octane renderer for C4D, this seemed like the perfect choice," he writes, referencing an engine for Maxon's Cinema 4D software. "Lots of different materials, texturing techniques, etc."

Smith's choice of subjects has already drawn the attention of the space community. Among those leaving comments for the video on YouTube were the Exploration Museum in northern Iceland and Andrew Chaikin, historian and noted author of "A Man on the Moon."

Smith credits NASA for the inspiration.

"Special thanks to NASA," Smith wrote, "for all the super cool, high res public domain imagery, free 3D models, and for going to the moon in the first place!"


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