Last week, the official United States Space Force insignia debuted and star trek fans immediately thought it sounded familiar:
Reactions to the newly formed Space Force logo included:
“IT’S THE STARFLEET LOGO!”
“Is nothing sacred?”
“Well, now taxpayers can pay for attorneys when you’re sued by Paramount and the Roddenberry Estate…” https://t.co/AJpqYd8Avb
—NPR (@NPR) January 25, 2020
I can’t say how right or wrong they are, but it was a delightful irony that the real world decided to drop new hiking content the same week we got the first episode of Star Trek: Picard. But they’re also part of a back-and-forth between the design sensibilities of US military and space programs and Starfleet designs that are supposed to be a direct descendant of it.
This is not the first time that the space program has taken inspiration from hikingafter all – the first space shuttle was named the Business after hiking fans campaigned for it, and decades later this shuttle became part of the opening credits for the show of the same name. But if you look at the fictional history of Starfleet and the real history of US military emblems, you can see that the new Space Force insignia serves primarily to fill another gap in the fictional history of the Starfleet emblem.
THE EARLY YEARS
Uniform crests have long been a tradition in the United States, and the overall layout has been the same for decades, as seen here with the United States Marine Corps insignia – a circular layout, with the name of the organization around the outside, and the “Eagle, Globe and Anchor” of the Body in the middle. This type of thing has informed public perceptions of what looks like an “official” organizational crest for years.
The most obvious precursor to Starfleet in our modern world is NASA, where you can find many of the same design elements that would later appear in Starfleet designs – the star field, the orbital path surrounding the logo and even a kind of oblong rectangle. arrowhead shape that looks a bit like the Starfleet delta stuck in a puller (or maybe an “automatic rice picker”). Patches like these appear, framed, in “Club 602” frequented by Jonathan Archer and other early Starfleet officers.
AIR FORCE SPACE COMMAND
The clearest design inspiration for the new Space Force logo is the Air Force Space Command shield, which was designed in the early 1980s. Space Command oversaw space defense missions like systems missile warning system, and existed until the Space Force became the sixth branch of the United States Armed Forces in 2019. If nothing else, this shield shows that while the United States takes its design inspirations from star trekthey’ve been doing it for decades.
THE BEGINNINGS OF STARFLEET
“Through hardships to the stars” proclaims the first example of the Starfleet logo, which is clearly intended to be a direct descendant of the NASA emblems that preceded it. Early Starfleet uniforms featured many design elements that later uniforms would drop: elements such as visible zippers, numerous pockets, and ship crests designated for each ship. The crews of ships like the Business and Colombia proudly identified the ship they belonged to — because when you serve aboard the Businessno matter the era, you want people to know that.
Before the creation of the Federation, the Earth was alone. With the creation of a united government of Earth, it was no longer necessary to maintain armies for individual countries to fight against each other. The soldiers did not leave, however: they became MACOs, the “Military Assault Command Ops”, the official army responsible for defending the Earth against extraterrestrial threats. By comparison, Starfleet was a smaller pilot program that spent its early years in danger of being abandoned.
When Earth was attacked by the Xindi, Jonathan Archer was sent to find and stop them – and he was given a detachment of MACO troops to help bolster Starfleet’s firepower. The MACO badge features a five-pointed star with an elongated top, which would be incorporated into the Starfleet logo
THE USS FRANKLIN
The Franklin is a ship that disappeared in early Starfleet, and its captain, Balthazar Edison, served as a MACO before the formation of the Federation. This mission patch shows one of the first instances of Starfleet’s “Delta” in more or less good shape.
THE USS DISCOVERY
At the time of Discovery of the USS, the Starfleet insignia had evolved into a very recognizable shape – with the addition of a vertical line that separated the insignia into two-tone sections. The MACO star, at this point, signified command-level aircrew, with different pattern insignia for other departments.
For a time during Kirk’s time, different divisions aboard the ship had different variations of the Starfleet insignia to denote different departments, such as Science and Engineering/Operations. Subsequent generations (including The next generation) would indicate departments through color-coded combinations.
The Starfleet insignia later took on more utility and importance when it came to housing an officer’s communicator, reduced from the bulky “flip phone” design to a portable device hands free. The badge also tracks the wearer’s movements and activities wherever they go, much like our smart phones do now (best not think too much about it).
Originally seen in the TNG series finale “All Good Things…”, this future combadge has appeared in several alternate futures: Captain Nog wears it in “The Visitor”, and a future version of Admiral Janeway in carry one in TravelerThe Endgame finale. A slightly sleeker version of this iteration of the combadge appears to be what Starfleet is wearing at the time of the new Star Trek: Picard.
THE FUTURE OF THE FUTURE
Spotted on the reverse of Captain Braxton, a time-traveling 29th century Starfleet officer, at Travelerthis combadge shows that the Starfleet badge does have some toughness.
Of course, the 29th century was previously the most advanced we’ve ever had in the hiking schedule, but with the upcoming season of Discovery we hope to see our fearless crew carry the gospel of slightly oblong triangles to a new generation of future humanoids.
Sean Kelly (he/him) is a St. Louis-based freelance writer. He sometimes gets depressed never knowing what the raktajino looks like.