If you haven’t seen Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, do yourself a freaking favor. If you have, you’ll be delighted by this news: NASA’s Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) just teamed up with Marvel to create a mission patch, one that will accompany payloads on their way to the International Space Station’s National Laboratory. The patch proudly features Guardians of the Galaxy stars Groot and Rocket Raccoon, partners in universal crime science.
CASIS organized the collaboration, which is intended to spur interest in space, space science, and NASA. Comic-Con attendees were given the first look at the patch, and it’s since set off several ripples throughout the internet universe. Inverse spoke with Juan Doe, the artist behind the design.
Doe’s a “big comic fan” and a Marvel artist, so he’s known and loved the Guardians since “before anyone knew who they were.” Upon first hearing about the movie, he was dubious, but intrigued. The adaptation did not disappoint. “They just knocked it out of the park,” he says. “Now, it’s iconic: Everyone knows Groot and the Guardians.”
So when Marvel’s Special Projects Editor Darren Sanchez offered him the gig, he accepted without hesitation. “I do comic book stuff, but I also do a lot of design work,” Doe explains. “I think they felt that I had the right combination of being able to illustrate it as well as design it for the final version.” CASIS had a set of initial stipulations — Rocket and Groot were to be the mascots, for instance — but the process was “incredibly smooth.” Everyone involved in the project was passionate about it, Doe says, so it proceeded without incident. In two weeks, Doe had a complete, approved design.
Groot and Rocket are perhaps the two most endearing characters in Guardians. Groot is a humanoid but extraterrestrial tree who can only say “I am Groot,” though it can sprout and regenerate limbs and grow at will. Rocket is a classic talking raccoon: a small, insecure troublemaker who’s more bark than bite — until he gets a gun into his tiny little hands. Together, they bop around the galaxy and cause a ruckus.
But Rocket and Groot represent more than just reckless space exploration. Doe says CASIS is organizing a contest. “They’re going to ask the public to contribute ideas for a couple of experiments that they’re going to do on the International Space Station,” he explains. “One is an organic experiment, and the other one is a tech experiment.” Groot, the tree, symbolizes the organic; Rocket, the anthropomorphic raccoon, symbolizes the synthetic or technological. Winners get to see their experiments taken to the ISS’s National Laboratory.
Doe is on vacation in Florida this week. Or rather, he was supposed to be on vacation, then the internet caught wind of his design. He still had time to visit the Kennedy Space Center, where there’s a display containing all completed mission patches. “Probably one day that patch will be there as well,” Doe says, bubbly. “Part of history. Stoked about that.”
Doe’s patch will indeed travel to and from space, which amazes him. “I don’t even think they know how big of a space fan I am — and physics, and math, and science — it’s kind of something that’s like my love-passion-hobby. I’m a space fanatic. I’m always geeking out on that stuff.” Soon, he’ll be one of few artists with art in space.
CASIS is not yet planning on selling the patches, but it will be handing out stickers at outreach events. Doe will receive a few commemorative patches, but he’s hoping that he’ll be able to snag one that actually makes it to space. “That would be amazing,” he says. “Maybe I could do an artwork trade: Give someone a piece of Groot art or Rocket art to get that.” Given that Doe’s patch has already attracted the attention that it has, CASIS may want to offer one up free of charge. The next generation’s space scientists are knocking at the ISS’s door. Rocket Raccoon is somewhere inside, and Groot is there to greet them — the only way he knows how.