Gap Baffles NASA Fans by Featuring the Space Shuttle in an Ad About 1969

Brand says its ad is just being misunderstood

Gap's been running ads celebrating "iconic Americana moments" and playing up the chain's founding in 1969. But one of its retro choices left NASA fans flummoxed.

A tweet from the recent campaign, posted on March 1, featured a photo of a space shuttle liftoff, emblazoned with the text "1969." As any fan of space history knows, that was the year Apollo 11 went to the moon on a Saturn V rocket, more than a decade before the space shuttle made its debut.

The tweet didn't get much attention at the time, beyond a few terse corrections:

But today the tweet resurfaced for a healthy dose of mockery thanks to a writeup by Popular Science, which noticed the gap in years and set out on a mission to figure out exactly which space craft is featured in the Twitter photo. Although the first shuttle flight was in 1981, the magazine estimates we're actually seeing a late-model space shuttle, which puts it several decades out from 1969.

"Our best guess for exactly which Shuttle appears in Gap's ad is the ninth modification of the shuttle Discovery, which flew from 1998 until 2011," according to the story. "However, the graphic designer seems to have erased a few distinguishing marks that would make the confirmation of the model easier."

Gap argues that the "1969" messaging is about its own founding, not about the images shown in its ad campaign:

But is the brand just making up a last-minute excuse to cover for an embarrassing flub? It's hard to know for certain, though it's worth noting that another ad in the campaign features what appears to be a 1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass:

Others are chronologically ambiguous, such as this surf shot:

At least one space lover is trying to help solve the confusion, though: