Apollo 14’s oval design is chiefly remarkable for the odd choice of lettering used. The weight contrast in the font used for “APOLLO 14” poses challenges for both the printer and the embroiderer, as the slender strokes practically disappear at smaller reproduction sizes. The script lettering used for the crew names calls for fine detail which, combined with its lack of contrast in relation to the gold border, tends to make the names practically disappear.
Almost alone among the pictorial designs of this era, space is depicted as blue instead of the correct black. Apollo 10’s design is the other anomaly, but it’s depiction is such a dark blue it isn’t quite as jarring as this design.
The object in the image which is depicted heading for the moon from the Earth is an astronaut pin. Astronauts were given a silver version of this pin when they were accepted into the astronaut corps, and were awarded a gold version after their first space flight.
Shepard, though he had been the first American in space, had only the 15 minutes of flight time he accrued during his sub-orbital hop in Mercury. While in training for the Gemini program, Shepard developed Meniere’s Syndrome, and was grounded until 1969. The brief experience he had of spaceflight led other astronauts to jokingly call him a “rookie.” As his two crewmates were, in fact, rookies, the Apollo 14 crew was referred to as “the three rookies.”
Of note too, is the fact that Shepard was the only one of the original Mercury astronauts to fly to the moon.
The astronaut pin as a design motif had its beginning with the Apollo 14 patch. It wasn’t until 1984 that it made a return appearance, on the STS-41G patch. Beginning with the STS-53 mission in 1992, the astronaut pin has been incorporated in various forms on at least 31 Shuttle mission patches, making it one of the most often-used (indeed, overused) design motifs on U.S. mission patches.
The backup crew for Apollo 14 was Eugene Cernan, Ronald Evans, and Joe Engle. In his book, The Last Man on the Moon, Cernan describes a spoof his crew pulled on the prime crew:
[Shepard] took our good-natured ribbing about his crew being tagged as the Three Rookies. Ron, Joe and I called ourselves the First Team, to infer that we were better than they were."
Every flight has a personalized crew patch, and Apollo 14 was no different, except for one thing — we were the first and only backup crew to have a mission patch, too! This loony idea was a ‘gotcha’ on Al, for it depicted a gray-bearded Wile. E. ‘Three Rookies’ Coyote coming up from Earth only to find a ‘First Team’ Roadrunner already standing on the Moon, chirping his famous ‘Beep-beep!’
All the way to the Moon and back, even on the lunar surface, whenever the crew opened a box, bag or locker, out would float a First Team mission patch. Ron, Joe and I, as the backup crew, had final access to the spacecraft, and while we set the switches and checked the gauges, we also stuffed our Roadrunner patches into every nook and cranny, setting up a future mini-blizzard of “gotchas” for the Three Rookies. Perhaps the most repeated phrase on the private radio loop during the flight of Apollo 14 was Shepard’s annoyance when still another patch would suddenly appear. “Tell Cernan,” he growled, “Beep-beep, his ass.”
—Eugene Cernan, The Last Man on the Moon