James Lovell
John Swigert
Fred Haise


Lumen Winter


Norman Tiller

Apollo 13

The Apollo 13 patch is arguably the pinnacle of patch design from the first two decades of American spaceflight. Commander Jim Lovell — who usually took the lead in the design of the patches for his missions — recalled:

I started out the design of this patch with the idea of the mythical god, Apollo, driving his chariot across the sky and dragging the sun with it.

Lovell had been part of the Apollo 8 crew, and prior to the selection of the CM-shaped design of the final Apollo 8 patch, that crew had provisionally selected a design by Allen Stevens which incorporated three horse heads. So later, when Lovell saw a mural of three galloping horses at the St. Regis hotel during a visit to New York City, he was inspired to seek out the artist.

That artist, Lumen Winter, was a talented and widely admired muralist and sculptor. Dramatic, stormy visions of galloping horses was a theme that he repeated in endless variations. Lovell commisioned him to design the patch for Apollo 13, and Winter executed the commision as a bas-relief roundel. It is beautifully evocative, but completely devoid of color. (See the image of it below.) NASA contract artist Norman Tiller took the colorless bas relief image and experimented with several different color palettes before settling on the final, compelling golden-hued design.

Again quoting Lovell:

We decided to eliminate the names and instead put in the Latin ‘Ex Luna, Scientia’ or ‘From the Moon, Knowledge.’ I plagiarized this somewhat because it is similar to the Naval Academy ‘Ex trident, scientia’ which is ‘From the sea, knowledge.’

This decision to omit the crew names turned out to be fortunate, since original crewmember Ken Mattingly was replaced at the last minute by backup crewmember John Swigert (there was a concern regarding Mattingly's exposure to German Measles). Aside from Apollo 11, this was the only flight of the Apollo series (including Skylab and ASTP) that did not include the names of the crewmembers on the patch. Lovell also observed that the original mural had included a fourth horse lagging behind the three in the foreground. He felt that the fourth horse was ironically symbolic of the displaced Mattingly.

As for the artwork that inspired the design: when the St. Regis Hotel was refurbished, Winter’s 20×8 foot mural was removed, and several years later it turned up at an auction of space artifacts in Los Angeles. It was purchased by Tom Hanks, who had portrayed Lovell in the movie Apollo 13. Hanks gifted the mural to Lovell, and when Lovell’s son opened a restaurant, Lovell’s of Lake Forest, near Chicago in 1999, the mural was given prominent placement in the establishment. The restaurant has since closed, and Lovell donated the mural to the Capt. James A. Lovell Federal Health Center in North Chicago.

NASA photo S69-60662
The artwork by Norman Tiller, whose genius use of color brought Winter’s design to life.

Beta cloth version of the Apollo 13 patch. The varying sizes of beta cloth patches seems to have settled down around Apollo 13. Subsequent patches (with the exception of the smaller SMEAT patch) varied only slightly (1-2mm) from the standard set by this patch.
89mm dia

This embroidered patch is an extraordinarily faithful rendering. The source of this patch claimed that it was 1970’s vintage, a claim that is supported by the original packaging it was in, with a price of $1. AB Emblem was the manufacturer of this patch as well as the one on the right. The “ribbing” effect visible in the sun marks this as the version worn by the crew.
91mm w × 92mm h

A variant AB Emblem embroidered Apollo 13 patch. While this is a lovely rendering, the horses are of different colors, rather than all the same, as in the artwork. Both AB and Lion Bros patches have a silver rim, rather than orange as in the design.

Lion Brothers embroidered Apollo 13 patch. This rendition follows the original artwork less faithfully than the first AB Emblem patch (above), but more faithfully than the second AB Emblem patch (above right): the color of the three horses are all the same (albeit too dark), and the lunar surface shows craters. Also, the stitching of the blue contrail is more precise.
100mm dia

The hallmark — the number “13” stitched into a horses mane — that appears on the Lion Brothers patch.

An extremely faithful embroidered design. For my taste, the yellow is missing some significant red — it should be closer to orange — like the patch to the right. There is variant [ap13-em5] that is identical on the front, but has a black back.
101mm dia

Yet another recent remake. It’s hard to imagine any embroidered patch that would be more faithful to the artwork than this.
101mm dia

This beautifully rendered vintage version is similar to [ap13-em1] but differs in significant respects, mainly in the rendering of the horses; but note also the halo around the earth and the lack of black craters on the moon. Thanks to Ron Goode for this image.

The MSC artist who produced the final artwork for the Apollo 13 patch, Norman Tiller, secreted his initials on the left foreleg of the rightmost horse — a detail too small to make it into any of the embroidered versions of the patch. It did, however, make it into the beta-cloth version — though barely legible.

After their flight the crew joined Lumen Winter, who had created this bas-relief roundel inspired by the mural Lovell had seen. This photo (from late May or early June of 1970) was apparently taken at the St. Regis hotel, since the mural appears in the background. (AP Wirephoto)

The 1969 mural by Lumen Martin Winter which inspired the design of the Apollo 13 patch. Originally hung in the St. Regis Hotel, the mural now hangs in the Capt. James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago, Ill.

A painting after the original mural, done by Winter in 1981.

NASA photo S69-62224
Beginning with Apollo 13 it became customary to include the crew patch as part of the official crew portrait. This custom continued through Apollo 17. This portrait shows the original crew, prior to the last-minute substitution of John Swigert for Ken Mattingly.