McDonnell Douglas Corporation
The Skylab Expedition 2 patch has as its central image an adaptation of a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci, inspired by the writings of the first century BCE Roman architect Marcus Vitruvius Pollio in his De Architectura libri decem (Ten Books on Architecture), the oldest and most influential work on the subject. The third book suggests that buildings should reflect the proportions of the human figure: this figure would fit into the perfect geometric figures of the circle and the square. Proportional Study of Man in the Manner of Vitruvius was drawn around 1487.
“Initially we asked the art departments at Rockwell (LA), McDonnell Douglas at Huntington Beach (builders of the Skylab), Kennedy Space Center and others to search the windmills of their minds for our mission patch considering the major objectives of Skylab — Earth, Sun and Medical. The group at Huntington Beach was selected, although we received many good ideas from all of them.
“We had decided that our patch should be red, white and blue for obvious reasons. The Earth half of the patch is pretty straightforward. The sun half is a little special in that the solar flare depicted in yellow orange is the shape of one Owen Garriott had done extensive analysis on years before. Leonardo Da Vinci’s man represents the medical aspects of the flight. Certain modifications were made in Da Vinci’s art to make it more suitable for family viewing.
“An interesting sidelight involves the wives’ patch, a ‘first’ that was done without our knowledge. The first time we saw the ‘wives’ patch was when we arrived in orbit and began to open the storage lockers in the Command Module to get our gear out. Neatly pasted to the interior of three of these locker doors were decals of the ‘wives’ patch. This was a great idea and consistent with one of our mottos, ‘Never lose your sense of humor.’”
— Jack Lousma, from All We Did Was Fly to the Moon
In my opinion, this is one of the handsomest of the early patches. I find it mildly curious that Alan Bean, commander of the Skylab Expedition 2 crew, later retired from NASA to become a full-time artist, and yet I have not found any evidence of his bringing his artistic abilities to bear on either this patch or the patch for Apollo 12, of which he was also a crew member. I imagine he was far too busy training for these flights to steal enough time to work on a patch design.
Among the Apollo and Skylab patches, this is the only design for which an individual artist has not been identified.
French journalist Jacques Tiziou conceived the idea of a patch based on the actual mission design, but using a female figure in place of the Leonardo-based male form. He asked Alan Bean’s art teacher, Ardis Shanks, to draw the female figure, added this to the base design, and replaced the crew names with the names of their wives — Sue Bean, Helen-Mary Garriott and Gratia Lousma. He then had 320 embroidered patches made, and arranged for an astronaut acquaintance to stash a number of these in the Skylab expedition 2 CM.