Alan L. Bean
Jack R. Lousma
Owen K. Garriott

28 July-25 September 1973

Source Material:
Leonardo da Vinci
McDonnell Douglas Corporation

Skylab Expedition 2

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 best-looking patches. It's interesting to note 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 read any account 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.

The "Vitruvian Man" was used again (with the circle and square omitted) as a design element on the STS-40 mission patch in 1991, though much less prominently than on the Skylab Expedition 2 patch.

da Vinci's study of proportions
The drawing by Leonardo DA Vinci, Proportional Study of Man in the Manner of Vitruvius, which served as the inspiration for the Skylab Expedition 2 mission patch.

NASA photo Beta cloth patch

NASA photo ID: S72-51123
Taken: 1 Feb 1973

Beta cloth version of the Skylab Expedition 2 patch.
89mm dia

AB Emblem patch

Embroidered Skylab Expedition 2 patch, AB Emblem version.
102mm w × 103mm h

Lion Bros patch Hallmark

Embroidered Skylab Expedition 2 patch, Lion Brothers version.
105mm dia

The hallmark in the Lion Brothers Skylab Expedition 2 patch consists of the initials of the crew -- "BGL" -- sewn into the edge of the sun around 7 o'clock.


The wives patch is nearly identical to the original patch except that the male da Vinci figure is replaced by a female figure -- in a somewhat more relaxed pose; and the names around the patch are "SUE  HELEN-MARY  GRATIA", for Sue Bean, Helen-Mary Garriott and Gratia Lousma. Ardis Shanks, who was an artist in the Houston area (and Alan Bean's art teacher, to boot!) drew the female figure. She and French journalist Jacques Tiziou both had patches made from this design, and Tiziou had an astronaut acquaintance secret a number of patches in the Skylab expedition 2 command module. The patch on the left [sk03wi-em1] is one of 320 originals made by Tiziou (my thanks to Jacques Tiziou for this image). The patch on the right [sk03wi-em2] is an unauthorized reproduction.

The wives of the Skylab II crew with the artist who drew the figure for the "wives" patch. Left to right: Helen-Mary Garriott, Sue Bean, artist Ardis Shanks, and Gratia Lousma. My thanks to Ardis Shanks for this photo.

There is a footnote to this story, which is related only obliquely to the Skylab Expedition 2 patch, in that it springs from the same motif. Hamilton Sundstrand, the manufacturer of the Shuttle EVA (extravehicular activity, known colloquially as a "space walk") suits, designed this patch to be affixed to all of its space suits -- since company logos are verboten on NASA equipment. This patch is also based on the da Vinci "Vitruvian Man" theme, but is updated for the space age: the central human figure is an astronaut suited for EVA. While this is a bit of a liberty with a classic image, it does address two modern concerns: the spacesuited figure is androgynous to reflect that female astronauts perform EVAs as well as male astronauts; and it presumably cushions delicate sensibilities from abuse.


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