When the space shuttle Atlantis launches on July 8 in its final mission, it will be adorned with a nose-art painting on its fuel tank paying tribute to the shuttle's 30-year legacy, along with the United States flag and the NASA logo.
Based on the old tagline The Gem of the Galaxy when NASA's first shuttle was launched in April 1981, the new logo depicts the shuttle with a diamond-shaped background.
The logo was designed by Blake Dumesnil, an engineer at Johnson Space Center in Houston, and was painted on the door by Lockheed Martin graphic artist Jon Irving, who works at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, where the tank was built.
Dumesnil said the emblem reflects an innovative, iconic gem in the history of American spaceflight.
The logo shows the U.S. flag and two sets of stars -- 14 in memory of the astronauts killed in Challenger and Columbia shuttles and five symbolizing the five space shuttles including Discovery, Endeavour and Atlantis. Besides it, an inscription reads Space Shuttle Program 1981 - 2011, the years of space shuttle program undertaken by NASA.
The design was hand-painted on tank access door by Irving, who had painted similar logo on Endeavour. However, the tank is not retrievable and will be lost in the atmosphere when the shuttle returns.
It is the second time in 135 NASA missions that an external tank will feature artwork, following ET-122, which flew with shuttle Endeavour in May.
ET-138’s ‘nose art’ was finalized after the NASA Space Shuttle Program Commemorative Patch contest.